If you live long enough this will happen.
Today I have a firm handle on my remaining books. I dust them, talk to them, pet them like a cat, reorganize them on shelves. They are happy.
Why you ask do I do this?
I realized I had to do something.
I frequently go to library sales, Goodwill stores, thrift shops, and other places where books are found at cheap prices. During these expeditions I run across a book that gives me pause. I recall that I read the book years ago. I remember nothing of the story. Nothing. Then, as in the case of Robert Penn Warren for example, I recall other books of his I read. And though I recall titles, the story is lost, gone, as if never read.
Recently this happened when I found Paul Auster’s “Brooklyn Follies.” I recall reading his New York trilogy, but the stories, the characters, as elusive as the wind. What does this say about my memory? What would Marcel Proust say? Would I be a character in his seven volume opus? I think I would be more likely to end up in a Kafka novel as a comical, schizoid paranoiac character.
This happens so often two things occur to me. One is that I have read for more books than I have thought. So many stories they have disappeared from my memory; only when seeing the title, like a familiar face from the past, do I recognize it as a friend. And how many still forgotten books that I read are waiting for the title to be seen before I say, “Oh yeah, I remember reading that book.”
How, I ask myself, can a story that absorbed all my thoughts, that captured all my emotions, that engrossed my entire attention, be forgotten. How can this be? How can it be, in the end, so transitory?
The second thing is where are those books, where have they gone? I don’t remember disposing of them, not all of them anyway. Did I recycle them to second-hand stores? Did I give them to friends? Were some lost in moving? Did my mother throw them away like my baseball cards? (No!)
But still they have gone somewhere.
I wonder if being on my shelf for so long, feeling neglected, undusted, they decided to leave like a cat who thinks it is time to find a better home.
They must have snuck out in the middle of night, one here, one there, meeting up at a secret location, perhaps some used book store. A slow steady stream of books over time slinking out unnoticed.
With the story lost, they must not have had a reason to stay.
That is why I talk to my books today. I want them to stay around.