If you happened upon my website at any point in the last year or so, I must apologise. For the longest time my website was shown as being ‘under construction’. For a time, it completely disappeared. Well, it wasn’t so much the website that was under construction as me… I was the one who was under construction. And while I was undergoing changes, there was no possibility of my creating a website that was in any way representative of who I was or what I had to offer. The fact is, I simply didn’t know what that was.
I was the one who was under construction.
There are lots of identity tags that we feel makes us who we are. Our relationships, our jobs, our sense of humour, our unique talents, even our tragic flaws. Even our belongings. For the past few years I’ve been steadily throwing away objects that no longer fitted into my life (or my boat, which has a much smaller floorspace than any of the houses where I’ve lived). But one of the hardest things for me to shed has been my collection of books. Now, don’t get me wrong; I’ve got rid of a LOT of books over the past few years.
But I’ve still got a LOT.
And the reason why is that every one of those books is like a chamber in my brain. Even though I’ll probably never read those books again, just being able to see them on my bookcases makes me feel secure in knowing that piece of my brain – my personality, my identity – is still intact. Every one of those books represents a part of who I am.
At least, they represent who I think I am. Without those books, I just don’t know who I’d be any more. At the same time, each of those books represents something I can never quite hold onto. It’s as if they might flutter away from me on butterfly wings, no matter how much I try to pin them down.
It’s as if they might flutter away from me on butterfly wings, no matter how much I try to pin them down.
I have a strange relationship with my books,. To the extent that I often can’t bear to hear other people talk about books I’ve loved. It’s as if the book has been unfaithful to me. Taken our relationship and made it shabby. For me, joining a book club would be like going to a swinger’s party. And not in a good way. But it’s deeper than that. Hearing someone else talk about a book I’ve loved feels as though a part of my identity has been compromised. How can that book be a part of me, when it’s been a part of someone else – and perhaps they’ve experienced it completely differently?
Holding on to our stories is something that makes us human. Stories have shaped human cultures from the very earliest human communities, so perhaps it’s to be expected that I would try to cling on to my books – my stories – as if they shape the stuff of my identity. For me, this assumes an additional resonance with the past. I very seldom invest time in new books; books, for me, are a way of connecting to the past and thereby providing assurance of continuity. I say this not as a statement of how things should be. It’s rather a statement of how things are – for me – and something I’ve only recently realised.
I very seldom invest time in new books; books, for me, are a way of connecting to the past
So while my website has been under construction – and while its owner has also been under construction – I have lost a lot of books. But many remain. I wonder, will I ever find out who, or what, or if I am – without them? And – here’s the really important question:
What kind of website will I have? 🙂