Got rid of my books today. As a professor in the humanities, bibliophilia (an irrational attachment to books) is expected. At least if you’re really serious about your job.
I never had enough bibliophilia to satisfy my co-workers. And now that I’m leaving, I’ve developed a severe case of reactive bibliophobia — an irrational fear of books. I’ve decided knowledge can’t possibly be contained in physical objects, and now I’m spurning the pulp-and-binder containers.
My plan was to throw all my unopened boxes at the bookstore, but they made me unpack them. And there was The Merry Wives of Windsor, which I’d done costumes for while I was in college; there was Fran Lebowitz in paperback — but surely I could buy another copy when I finally, someday, have a real library and a real home. I rescued a hardback copy of Ibsen, knowing that an old friend had inscribed it, and couldn’t resist Wendy Wasserstein.
My choices were indicative of my Gen X/Gen Y/Millennial confusion. Why save a cheap copy of Shakespeare when I know I can read him online? And cookbooks, which I used to love, are unwieldy compared to perching a laptop on the counter. But once something is inscribed, it becomes more than an object.
Catullus in Latin, my Merrill edition, will certainly come with me. In my former field, it was dogma that “texts are central” and ironically, in this age of digital media, that’s still true. I’ve marked up my Catullus with vocab help and notes to myself. I don’t care how good digital interfaces get, you’re never going to interact correctly with a foreign language on them. That takes a pencil and paper.
I probably didn’t get rid of enough books. I fear that my dream library is something that will never happen anyway, and the more pressing issue is deciding which books will make it into my car, since I’ll be living out of it for a few months.