Tuesday, February 28, 2012

a book I have re-read

okay, okay; yes, it's true. I have re-read some books. In this case, I have to admit that I have a soft spot of Possession by A. S. Byatt. In fact, I am re-reading it right now. 5th or 6th time, already. Why? Well, it isn't the romance aspect to it even though I am a hopeless romantic. It's the element of discovery. The way in which the discoveries present themselves and are dealt with. The level of excitement involved in the chase, the search, the journey. Both internally (within the characters) and externally (within the material being pursued and the relevance being uncovered - revealed)

When I first read this novel I was already well on my own way of finding interesting books with peculiar markers, or postcards, or letters left in them. I not only could visualize these events happening in real life but to some extent, had already experienced them in my own. More often than not, I made no attempt to follow up on the inscriptions or names on my piece of paper, nor call any left-behind telephone number (the ones without area codes were most amusing). Unless the book was signed by a famous person, contained details of that person's life; for example, when I found the small trove of books from Norman H Pritchard's personal library. All signed by him. His copies of text books or books he had read (and left notes in). Often I find threads of research that I don't wish to follow, not that they won't lead anywhere but I don't want to invest any time or energy in the trail myself. But then whom? I am the one with the appropriate copy, with the unique inscription, with the knowledge of a particular providence.

Is that enough? Who would care? Some grad student who is working on their dissertation on a related or perhaps near identical topic; yes, absolutely. What are the chances of that? I don't want to guess. It's not my purpose. Or maybe that is why I keep looking, collecting, and investigating as I do. Maybe it is in part my purpose.

That is certainly why I keep re-reading Possession. There is something in the story that intrigues me. The layers of discovery and the meanings UNcovered. I am hooked. While I enjoy the "bibliomysteries" of John Dunning's Cliff Janeway series, they are primarily detective novels. Possession is something else. It's more akin to Arturo Perez-Reverte's The Club Dumas. The thing surrounding it all is called A BOOK. The whole thing is called "a book". Writing, printing, publishing, binding, selling, re-selling, trading, archiving and/or pulping. The life cycle of a book is the life cycle of human existence as well. Books are human creations. Written by and for humans. They explain our condition and situation on this spinning marble. They comfort and amaze us, they terrify and cause us to burn them - over the endless course of time. But we continue to write and publish, and some of us continue to collect copies of them. That has to mean something. And, of course, it does.

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