Saturday, October 15, 2005

Special Books

Though not as much now as I wish, I am an avid reader. I'll read almost anything recommended to me (with the exception of the "read this. It's so bad it'll make you cry." books my dear husband pushes in my direction ;)) and I'm just as happy to pass them on to the next person and spread the wealth. The few times I've tried to maintain a collection, fate has destroyed that hope as books ended up filed in different shelves and then passed on at yard sales and used book stores because I didn't have them all, only to find the others years later.

This has given me a sense of books as temporary pleasures, a sense supported by the weird tinge of photographic-like memory I inherited from my parents that allows me to pick up a book within 10 years and everything will come back to me with such clarity that I almost never get the sense of new discovery. I'm a slow, detailed reader. You drop me a clue and odds are I catch it at the first go through, no matter how subtle. The number of books I've enjoyed rereading, I can practically count on one hand and often I wait 10 or more years before rereading. (For the curious, the one that comes most easily to mind in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I still love that book.)

Because of the above, my joy is much more in the passing on of books than collecting them. I figure the ones I want to reread are easily enough found again in libraries or used bookstores long after the publisher no longer has copies. This theory has taken hold of my mind despite the longing for a specific Harlequin romance published in the early '80s, but that's only a problem because I remember the story quite clearly to this day and yet the title and author didn't make it into my faulty memory banks. I want that book because the use of interpersonal tension was fantastic :D.

So, my reasons make sense, my logic (whatever you think of it) is logical. Why am I blathering on? Because all this has changed. I didn't really recognize that it had, or at least to such a great degree, until I went to the bookshelf where I'd placed a very special book and found its spot empty though I had no memory of lending the book out.

My very first special book came from Sheila, of StarDoc (as Sheila Viehl) and now vampire fantasy (as Lynn Viehl) fame (not to mention her romances that my sister just returned with a beg for more ;)). After not writing a book for many years, I was nearing the final 10k of my second novel in just over one year and I couldn't do it. I couldn't get past that end point and had no clue why. Sheila was running the Think Tanks over at Forward Motion at the time and helped me realize that half the problem was I didn't know what I would do next. I feared another chasm of no book writing opening up in front of me if I ever wrote "The End" on Heart's Promise. She told me when I got the book done, she'd give me a carrot...and then wouldn't say what it was. Sure enough, I raced through to the end and started into my next novel, The Queen's Return. I haven't stopped except to breathe since.

My carrot, when it arrived, was a signed copy of Blade Dancer (with a clever drawing of a carrot in the signature :)). This was my first signed copy ever and has extra significance because it gave me the push to keep going. If you want to see it, ask me some time when you are over here, but it is not leaving my library ever (Yes, I did find it a few days later, in a special place so it would not get lost ;)).

I have since received a few other signed copies including one from Holly Lisle in return for some coding work (the progress bar she uses on her site) and so my collection of special books is growing. My signed copies are unique. There is no way that I can simply replace them with a copy from elsewhere. The story would be the same, but the personal meaning would be lost. As much as I have enjoyed the stories, if I want to lend a copy out, I'm going to have to get a second :).

So, having just woken up to this new reality, I have to ask: do you have any special books? What makes them different from any other copy of the same? Or are they (like the romance I mentioned earlier) just too hard to find and so became precious by their very rarity?


Jennifer said...

As you know, Mar, I'm both an avid reader and an avid rereader. I have that same semi-photographic memory, but still enjoy seeing exactly how the story came up to the climaxes I recall. So my collection is enormous and well-catalogued, so I have a fighting chance of finding a particular book when I want to read it again.
Still, even given all that, I have more books that I'm willing to lend/give/sell than I do permanent keepers. The ones I won't give and rarely lend are usually the ones it took me forever to find in the first place - any Howard Pease sea book, for instance. Or if I could find Peter Morwood's Greylady and Widowmaker, those I'd keep - though I've culled and rebought his Warlord series literally half a dozen times (you'd think I'd learn). And the Mother Goose that was a gift from my grandmother...if one of my sisters really wanted it, I'd let them have it, but it's _not_ getting out of the family. And there are the big expensive books that I use constantly - Ashley's Book of Knots and the Cake Bible. So yes, I have special books, in various categories. But very few that are as important to me as your carrot...

Random Walk Writer said...

You know, Mar, if you posted what you remember about the Harlequin, you might find somebody knows the name and/or author and could help you find it.

Margaret said...

Okay, now you'll find out just how ridiculous I am, but here I go.

It's set in Wales. The MCs are the daughter of a coal mine (not sure about the coal part) owner and the foreigner (English/Irish maybe?) who has "bought the mine out from under her father's feet". She's engaged to another guy with a rather lukewarm relationship and believes she can run the mine after her father though he thinks the miners will not follow her. He's quite happy with the buyer and has in fact orchestrated the whole thing despite his daughter thinking it's a hostile takeover. The guy falls for her at first sight and tries to point out how little passion there is between her and the fiance. He commits social faux pais such as giving her a spoon (?) that is considered a Welsh engagement gift (the equivalent of a ring) and she thinks he doesn't know what he's doing, but he clearly does. Oh, and when he finally does kiss her, toes curl.

Is that enough? Isn't it ridiculous that I don't know the author or title? Oh, and it was one of the white covers with a picture in the middle (maybe of craggs but I'm not sure) and I read it before 1988 out of the library.



Mama Rose said...

I keep books I know I'll never reread because they spoke to me. (Don't tell my family, though. They're always after me to get rid of books so they don't have to move them.)

I also have cookbooks that are out of print and irreplaceable. Many of these I haven't even seen in used bookstores.

And I have signed books. Each of them is from someone who helped me with my writing or someone who got it for me because they knew the author or book was a favorite of mine.

I always say my one vice is books, but it's a lie. Caffeine, in the form of great coffee, is my not-so-secret vice. :)


Margaret said...

Luckily (?) my family is all of like mind. Sadly, this means I had to use my Xmas money to buy a bookcase all of my own (still working on the room ;)). We'd have a much larger house if not for the books :D.

Maripat said...

Hehe...I know the feeling about the books and the house. I only have one signed book and it's from Sheila Viehl, writing as Jessica Hall. I would've tried for Talyn but the snow storm and the tree problem kept me sidetracked and I forgot the drawing. I was screaming when I realized I'd missed it.

But the book Kissing Blades means more to me than just a signed book. I respect S.L. Viehl as a writer and a teacher. The same with Holly Lisle. I supposed that's why it burned me to miss out on Talyn. Yeah, I bought the book but I would've gladly donated it to a library if I could've gotten a signed one.

Although I still might buy a second book and give to the library.

Deirdre said...

I have recently (in the past 3-4 years) begun regretting the ease at which I disposed of books before...especially as I find myself saying "I used to own this, now I've got to find it over again". So now I'm spending more time looking for specific books so I can have complete series. So currently, I have a few special books, but still none that I wouldn't happily lend a friend. I don't own any that have been signed to me by the author or similar, though I do have a few that have been signed by friends. Those I would be sad to lose, but it wouldn't stop me from sharing the books - since I'd rather spread the joy of the book, then not lose it. That's pretty much how I feel about all my belongings though, so it's not terribly surprising.

Margaret said...

Hugs Maripat. The only reason I didn't jump on it was cause I have a book signed by Holly.

Yeah Dee, and then you end up with five copies of everything.

Honestly, I'd prefer to have your attitude, but have become cynical over the years. People forget, things get lost, jobs change, etc. I don't want to be in the position of tracking people down and saying "you borrowed X a year ago and I'd like it back" so I try only to lend out things I won't be upset to lose forever.


Demented M said...

At the age of seven, I came home to find my mother had gotten rid of all my books.

Every. Single. One.

I was traumatized. Still am at the age of 30+.

To this day, I mourn those books. I learned to read with them, in fact I still recall the plot of the book I reviewed over and over and over and over again. I loved that story and through that love I learned how letters formed words to make a story.

So I hold onto my books. I am cautious who I lend them to. And signed ones NEVER leave the house.

Although, I do go through on occasion and purge the ones that aren't really keepers.

My dream now is to get bookcases with glass doors to cut down on dust.


Trace said...

Margaret, try going over to the eharlequin boards. I'm sure somebody there will know the book you mention.

Margaret said...

Ouch, demented. I was pretty annoyed when I came back from college to discover my parents had yardsaled all my books, but it wasn't traumatic because I was in my "I want my life to fit in the back of a station wagon" phase and so couldn't have kept them anyway (not that I don't use it to poke them every once in a while ;). Just mention Hornblower....). But I can see you feeling that way absolutely. The glass fronts though *shakes head* not in earthquake zones.


That's a good idea :). I don't post there though I have read threads every once in a while and they seem a helpful group :).


Unwritten said...

I have one special book that's signed. I have other books I've deemed 'special', but that's because I loved the stories, or the author.
The one book I have is actually for a divinational deck (similar to tarot). The book is signed by both the writer of the book, and the artist of the deck. The arist is one of my favorites, and I love the other books he's done as well. Also, a friend went out of his way to get me a signed copy of this book/deck set.