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Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Packing books in boxes

I am in the middle of packing my books into boxes. I have thousands of books and they all have to be packed up before the removalists take everything away on 9 February.

It is a kind of meditation, packing books. There are books I have not looked at for years, and there are books I have not touched for even longer. Books I never thought I owned, and books I vaguely remember buying. Memories of where the books were bought, whether second-hand in a charity sale or in a bookshop new.

Each book has a personality and a character. I renew my acquaintance with each book as I put it into the cardboard packing box. I come to know my library again. I am reacquainted with my library. I get to know it again, as if it’s new and just acquired, although in reality I have been collecting books for over 30 years. There are books from when I was first at university in the 1980s. There are books bought after I returned from Japan in 2001.

I am becoming familiar once again with my books, and it’s a strange experience. In a way I want to have less books, because so many books are a burden. Each time I move house I have to go through the same process of packing and moving. I have to take the books down off the shelves, put them into boxes, and then put them back on the shelves again at the other end. It’s a problem.

On the other hand I revel in having so many books in my library, as though each book were a separate part of my personality to be handled and discussed at some future point in time, at some indeterminate locus of interaction with the world. In this way I become, in a way, able to be shared with the world because I own so many books. There are some books I forgot I had, and other books I am waiting to find.

I am awash with books, I am steeped in them. I am soaked in their knowledge and their styles of writing. I am in a way submerged by their richness and their excess.

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