In the time since my last posting, I have been to many bookstores and perused several auctions – one was even online! – and came away with several good finds to add to my library. I even hung some new light blocking drapes (no one wants yellowed book pages). All things considered, it was an average week; however, something quite peculiar happened yesterday.
I received a letter with my daily post, but it had no return address or even postage. Whoever sent it must have stopped by themselves and slipped it in with the rest of my mail. I’ll be honest and say I don’t get many house guests, so it was quite upsetting to have been paid a visit by a stranger. After all, I’m still reeling from having had my house broken into and my library destroyed!
The letter was very short, reading as follows:
I have caught wind of some college student using your identity in a class that promotes destroying books! For a grade. Can you believe that? Anyway, her name is Sarah Goodnough. Maybe you should look into that.”
I haven’t the slightest idea who the writer of this letter is, but right now that is the least of my worries. Not only has my identity been stolen, but this girl is using it to do something I would never do! Such nerve. This is why I don’t like children.
I have been thinking lately of the burning of books, no doubt from that blasted novel I picked up from the market. I just can’t get it out of my head. It’s a horrible idea, to be sure, but I find myself considering it constantly. Even my dreams are riddled with flaming piles of books! I’ve woken up nearly every night in a cold sweat. So, I figured why not indulge this fascination for a moment? Reading about this terrible act just might reassure me of its ridiculousness and get me to stop worrying about it.
I kept myself company at dinner tonight by reading a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne titled “Earth’s Holocaust.” Another haunting read, I must say, that deals with the burning of books (among other things). By the end of it, I found myself considering something entirely contrary to my previous anxieties!
If the unthinkable should ever occur and every book on earth is destroyed, there might still be hope that mankind will adhere to its cyclical nature and restore the printed word. If it has been done once, it will certainly be done again. Perhaps, the total destruction of my beloved books is not so bad after all. Even a sliver of hope is still hope, which much like a fire grows from the tiniest spark.
After having read this rare book, Fahrenheit 451, I must say – good Lord! If those firemen every tried burning my books, it would be over my dead body! I am not going through that again. On a more serious note, however, the idea of such a society is truly terrifying. No books? The notion is mind boggling. Why, books are such a part of my existence I would be nothing without them, nothing at all! It makes me queasy just to think of it. It’s absurd, that books should be outlawed. But then again, it isn’t. Just a minor glance at this world I live in promises such a future. There are far too many similarities between this world and the one of that book. Unsettling, to say the least!
Once I finished the book, my mind was certainly uneasy. I thought I might wind down by watching a few episodes of The Twilight Zone (a foolish idea, in retrospect). I tuned in first to “Time Enough At Last” and then “The Obsolete Man” and again, good Lord! Nothing at all there to put my mind at ease!
That night, my mind kept turning with these horrible thoughts. Time, time, time – it never slows down, never stops ticking away. That poor man in “Time Enough At Last” couldn’t catch a moment to read and once he did – his glasses break! Do I myself have enough time to restore my library? Lord knows I’m getting up there in age – I can’t remember the last time every hair on my head wasn’t gray! I very well might keel over picking through a bin of old books without even having half of my library restored. And the idea of obsolescence in “The Obsolete Man” is horrifying. Will I, a dusty book collector, one day become obsolete, as well? Will they do me in like poor Romney Wordsworth?
Of course, all of these silly thoughts were not so terrible in the daylight. I certainly have enough time to get my library in order. And of course I won’t be made obsolete. How ridiculous!
But still, unsettling.
After breakfast today, I went to the local street market and happened upon an unfamiliar book vendor. As a rare book aficionado myself, I have to say that I know most of the book vendors fairly well. However, I have never met this one before! The last few years have been spent in rigorous search of all the right books to restore my library, so I did not pass up the opportunity to peruse this new assortment.
To my disappointment, all of the books I saw were tattered and commonplace. Nothing of use there, sadly. When I was turning to be on my way, the vendor stopped me to ask what I was looking for. I explained that I was a book collector, but my collection had been destroyed in a fire, and I was looking to restore it. The vendor then pulled out a book from beneath his stand. Its cover was pristine white and red letters blocked across the front of it: Fahrenheit 451.
“This is a very rare book, indeed,” the vendor told me. “It’s the very first edition, signed by Bradbury himself! You say your books were burned? I think you’ll find this one quite a gem for your collection.”
And that is how I ended up coming home with this book. I must confess I’ve never read it, so I think I shall spend my afternoon doing so. Now to brew a pot of coffee…