Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Book stuff.

This is the year I turn forty, and even though it doesn't happen until October, I am already wrestling with it hard.

One of the many anxieties that has crossed my mind related to turning forty is silly, but very much a part of the "time running out" feeling I've been wrestling with, and that is--so many books to read, so little time. Which is a cliche, but like most cliches, all too true!

I've always been a voracious reader, but I hopped and skipped along, reading this and that, or not reading anything new for a few weeks here or there...and I often bemoaned the fact that I had "nothing to read." Lately, I've been feeling more and more breathless, looking at the stacks of books to be read, and finding new books to add to the stacks almost every day. I've gone from famine to feast, especially since I joined Paperback Swap and started trading for books I never would have found otherwise.

I watched a BBC miniseries of "Bleak House" this week on Netflix, and decided to read the book, which I was pretty sure I had tucked away on a shelf upstairs. I dug around and found A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations, which I've read; and David Copperfield and Oliver Twist, which I haven't gotten to yet, but no Bleak House.

Providentially, Borders sent me a coupon in this morning's e-mail, so I printed it off and took myself to Borders, where I did find a copy of Bleak House and heaved it down off the top shelf. Let's just say this is a daunting-looking book. Even in paperback, it weighs a ton. It's 800-some pages long--and tiny type! I have a feeling this book may take me through my fortieth birthday and beyond.

In the past few months I've been finding all sorts of new topics and new authors, with an emphasis on early 20th-century fiction and history. I've read bits of Dorothy Parker and Shirley Jackson, Virginia Woolf and Vita-Sackville-West. I've read about Bohemians in England and the Lost Generation and the gardens at Sissinghurst Castle. Every topic and every author washes up against each other and overlaps and there's always more threads to follow and more people to find out about. It's a little overwhelming.

I've also changed my method of reading lately. I'm using bookmarks! I've always been a dog-earer and a plopping-open-face-down reader, but after ruining a couple of perfectly good books by plopping them face-down onto unseen table and counter stains, I decided to invest in a couple of tassled bookmarks. They have an added bonus in that you can play with the tassel while you read.

Maybe it's just a winter kind of feeling, and once the sun comes back out and there's more to do outside, I'll lose this urgency that is making me feel like I should have a book in front of me at all times. But right now, I feel like a squirrel stashing nuts--except it's books and they take up way more room.