Thursday, October 20, 2016

Our surprising shelves

One of the many packed bookshelves in our house, hiding many, many books we have forgotten we own. John is more of a non-fiction reader, but Jane Austen and Kate Atkinson can do no wrong -- or ever write enough -- in his eyes. I am a fiction person, and while I like some of our new and emerging young writers, my go-tos  are always the older ones -- like Dickens, Trollope and the Brontes. Now that I know about Balzac, I'll soon be adding some of his 100-or-so publications to these shelves. 

John and I feel the same way about our book collection. The walls of books upstairs and down are our solace, our pleasure, our treasure chest. We both love the idea that we can dig into our shelves and emerge -- surprised -- with something good we have never read before. We add continually to our collection, although we occasionally have righteous bouts of paring and discarding. But the bookshelves are always overflowing, and surfaces in our house never stay bare for long.

When I realized I would be doing a presentation and paper on Virginia Woolf for my course this fall, the first place I turned was to my bookshelves. I've never been a Woolf fan, but she's one of those "big" writers I've always thought...well, maybe someday. When I emerged from my search, slightly dusty, this is what I had: To The Lighthouse (two copies); A Room of One's Own; Mrs. Dalloway; Woolf's Complete Shorter Fiction, and Virginia Woolf, A Biography, by her nephew Quentin Bell.

Who knows how all this found its way into my house? Here's a hint: Now that I'm starting to appreciate Woolf, I've been thinking about her other books, the ones I don't have. When I walked past  a second-hand bookstore today, it reached out and grabbed me, and sent me back onto the street with Woolf's The Voyage Out. I may not have time to read it now -- the presentation and essay and so on. But one rainy day, I will go to my bookshelf in search of hidden treasures. And there Virginia will be.

A search of my shelves yielded a surprising number of Virginia Woolf books. But there's always room for one more.

1 comment:

  1. Well, I see A Voyage Out is quite a big tome and was her first novel. That might be worth a try for me too. Surely, I must have finished A Room of One's Own now seeing how short it is! Perhaps time to go rummaging on my bookshelves. I always find surprises. No surprises on Jim's...