Friday, 1 August 2014
Books are the memorials of our lives
* There's the one I found in that unexpectedly excellent little country town bookstore, with all the twisting passages, when I was on holiday with my family last year.
* I found that one at Dubbo, just before we took the kids to visit the old gaol.
* The one next to it was from the bookshop in the foyer at Hillsong Church, when we reached Sydney on the same trip.
* That's one I saved up for, to buy from John Martins when I was a kid, and that department store no longer exists.
* That's one my sister gave me, when she was working in England and we flew across to visit her in my teens.
* That's one of the few I decided to hang onto after a Uni English course, which I thought would be worth reading again.
* I bought that one with a Koorong voucher somebody gave me for Christmas.
* That one was a quirky find on the bargain table at my local library.
* I swapped one of mine with the author of that one.
* That's the trilogy my husband bought me when we got engaged, and he was still my fiance. We later chose one of our sons' names from it.
Memories kept rolling through my mind with each book I looked at. What a fun way of keeping track of the events in our lives. I realised that almost every occasion in which a book joined our family was a happy one. I'd never thought of doing an exercise like this before, but now I'd recommend it to everyone as a quick and simple way of boosting your mood. Just peruse your books, and re-live the occasions when you received them. Our books can serve a multi-purpose. As well as being valuable for their stories or other content, we can also use them as memorials of our own lives.
For those of us who are authors, our books become happy memorials on other people's shelves too. With second-hand books, I may be inheriting the special memorials of other people, which will remain a mystery to me. And each one that I give away or add to piles for second hand shops may end up adding memories to other people's lives. The beautiful thing about books is that their histories can last centuries, if they are not knocked around too much. I have books that bear inscriptions in long-forgotten handwriting from my grandparents. Once, I went to a second hand book sale at an old church hall, and discovered that most of them were the ancient, hard-backed type with plain covers. There were so many, they were crammed behind each other and looming over my head in columns. The thought of all the buried memories, not to mention generations of fingers turning all the pages, is astounding.
So without even leaving my spot on the couch, I revisited some of the best moments of being 10, 15, 16, 21, 34, 28, 5 and several ages in between (because they are a bit of a hodge podge at the moment). And I'm sure there are new ones which are yet to join those already on my shelf in years to come.
Paula Vince is a South Australian author of contemporary fiction, set mostly in the Adelaide Hills, where she lives. She believes that a well-told story has its own particular power to touch hearts, and loves to read as well as write.