Thursday, July 13, 2017
Is that the meaning of life up on the bookshelf, or just a really spunky hardback?
Any kind of decent magical instruction will include the need for a totem - an object or thing that can be raised to ultra-significance by time and effort. It could be anything, but if you push enough thought and love and memory into the thing, the more important and powerful it becomes. It might mean nothing to anybody else, but it can literally become your own holy grail or philosopher's stone.
I've tried it a couple of times over the years, but it never really takes off, usually because I always lose the bloody thing just as it really gains in significance. The lovely wife and I have a little travel Buddha that always goes on every big trip we take, and we always rub his big belly for luck, and we usually get it. We've almost lost him a couple of times too - he almost got left on the roof of a taxi in Dubai and left behind in a hotel room in Winnipeg - but he's hanging in there for now.
But what about that bookcase, filled with comics and books, standing guard over my living room like a living monolith? It's always there, and it's filled with fiction and emotions. Is this my familiar? Is this my totem? Am I really that fucking shallow?
Oh yeah. I'm that fucking shallow.
There are nine bookcases in our small flat, and they're all solidly packed out with the usual chills and thrills, but the large one in the living room is definitely the big daddy.
It's five tall shelves high, reasonably deep and solid as fuck. It cost us several hundred bucks, and it's worth every cent. It looms over our living room, and is a constant beautiful distraction, because all the best stuff goes on that one. It is, quite literally, a showcase into my tastes and inclinations.
It's 80 percent comic books, all the Love and Rockets, all the favourite graphic novels and trade paperbacks and all the Big Books. Big, thick and deeply gorgeous art books anchor the whole thing, and favourite digest-sized comics fill all the gaps.
It's a big fucking bookcase, and while some things have a permanent home, there is a constant recycling of books through it. It's always changing, or growing, or shrinking, as the things I want to display change.
It's full of all sorts of crap, but it's not really anything unusual. There is nothing really that unique about my big bookcase, you'll find such bookshelves all over the world, in all sorts of homes.
But this one is mine, and I've put a lot of work into it. That constant shuffling is necessary, to get the right mix, and I'll never be properly satisfied with what it is saying.
Still, it looks sexy as hell. There are stories of infinite scope and endless novelty in those pages. There are literally universes on those shelves, entire sagas taking up one tiny corner of a shelf.
I always judge other people by the bookcases they have in their homes, and I expect to be judged by others for my own efforts. There is a lot going on in this bookcase, and it reveals a lot about my perspectives on the world, with doses of great literature pressed up hard against unashamed genre trash. All these books, all these comics, they're me.
And there is meaning in each one - I can remember where I got most of the volumes up there, and some of them are gifts, given with the greatest of affection, and some of them are comics that I've bought in shops all over the world, from Iceland to Invercargill.
We've only had this bookcase for a couple of years, but it's already charged up with the memories of where, when and why I got the things inside, dating back decades. It's all significant. It's all important. Nobody else should give a shit, but it all means something to me.
Even the shelves themselves have meaning - the bookcase was a gift from the lovely wife, to celebrate my 40th birthday. It's a solid and immovable symbol for our time together, and of the great affection we have for each other.
Bookcases are the only piece of furniture I never get rid of, unless they literally fall apart. I still have the small three-shelver that was literally my only piece of furniture when I first moved out of home, and it's storing all my cheap and cheerful paperbacks in the corner of the spare room.
Other furniture will come and go, but that big arse bookcase will be here to the end.
In the chaos and fear of this vast, unblinking universe, the bookcase is solid, and special. It's my totem. It's a big fat metaphor for everything I care about, and a solid-as-shit chunk of the world, taken up with enough books and comics to legitimately crush me to death if it ever went over. (This is a fairly likely fate, but what a way to go.)
It's dripping with significance. I can't fit it into the pocket like the travel Buddha, but it's always there, always waiting back at home.
And it's storing and displaying most of the finest things I've ever read, and some of the most beautiful art I've ever seen. Stories that changed the chemicals in my brain, and art that is so achingly perfect it's hard to hold back the tears. That's all got to count for something.
The shelves are deep, and my affection for things on there is even deeper, and that might actually make me shallow as fuck, but that's fine by me.
I've got my totem, and it's nearly as tall as I am, and a shitload heavier. It's full of all the memory and emotion I've poured into it for most of a lifetime, and it just keeps giving back.