Sunday, 29 July 2012

A good book on your shelf is a friend that turns its back on you and remains a friend - Author unknown

Last weekend, I found a book that I don’t ever remember buying.  “Found” is a bit much.  It was sitting on my bookshelf, quite open and accessible to all who would look.  With all the other short story collections I have.  And yes, I do classify my books.  But that’s for another time. 

I recognised it when I saw it.  It has a rather uncouth cover: blocks of pea green, purple and black.  But it’s old and I have no recollection when or from where I acquired it.  And I know that I’ve never read it.  It's entitled simply, almost arrogantly, Famous Short Stories.  Nothing to attract you.  Indeed, almost everything to repulse you.  But at the moment I’m trying to be all-embracing, open to new things.  And to cut down my spending on new books when I haven’t read all my present library.
So I started to read.  It’s wonderful.  An easy, entertaining read that brings together some of the big names of literature to share their brief, often quirky tales.  Saki, Maugham, Dylan Thomas, Kipling and the late Ray Bradbury. Perfect for the long, slow summer evenings we’ve been having. For a week up to last night, at least.
Each author has so much to offer in so little space.  I was totally absorbed. To the point that I actually gasped and my hand flew inadvertently to my mouth in dismay when I finished Waugh’s Bella Fleace gave a party. The mark of good writing, methinks.  You see, never judge a book by its cover.
Now I am left only to lament the fact that this book sat overlooked for so long!  It’s inexcusable.  I really must revisit my bookshelves more frequently.  What other gems are sitting waiting to be remembered?   Good thing books don't hold a grudge.  They sit so beautifully, nobly, filling space and never complaining of the negligence of a spoiled owner who does not read or touch or even peruse them for months on end.  Or indeed years. 
Like really good friends. Some of my very best friends are those from my youth.  We can go months, sometimes years with only the tiniest of contact between us.  Yet, coming together, we simply pick up where we left off.  There’s nothing like that sort of comfort.  The safety of knowing and being known.
Good friends are much harder to make with age.  I have no real idea why.  But my purely unscientific analysis tells me it is so.  And thus we cherish good friends all the more.  Maybe we love the nostalgia.  Like perusing the shelves of a bookshop. Or your own library.  Finding lost memories.  Rediscovering moments shared, surprise recollections. It's heart-warming. It's enduring. It's food for the soul.

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