Guest Blog: Old Books Smell Good

3 Aug

http://derekberry.wordpress.com/

When I was in elementary school, the Book Mobile rolled into the parking lot every day around 2:30. Waiting outside in the gravel parking lot, we carried our old books in our dumpy book bags. Bags with vinyl depictions of Power Rangers and Harry Potter. The old bus was outfitted with shelves, a small, cramped desk placed behind the driver’s seat. It kicked up gravel when it pulled up, and we hustled inside, especially when it was raining.

Standing inside the Book Mobile, we stood in a single file line, pressing our bodies into the shelves every time someone needed to pass by. The books we checked out were kid’s books: The Magic Tree House, The Hardy Boys. My mom wouldn’t let me read Goosebumps, because it was too scary, too gruesome. I hated horror books at that age anyways, anything too real. I guess now that’s pretty ironic.

This was my first experience with the library, waiting every Tuesday for the Book Mobile to bumble into the gravel parking lot. They’ve paved over that parking lot now; the Book Mobile sits outside the library, and I don’t know if it visits the elementary school anymore.

When I’m running behind on writing an essay or a column for The Hornet Herald, I visit the library. First, I read. I read funny books by Steve Barry and Ian Michael Black and Lewis Grizzard. And then I take out my laptop, get down to work. It’s mostly quiet there in the library, especially upstairs in the Nonfiction section. Along with the essays on poetry and the biographies. There’s wifi too, which is more distracting than helpful.

Facebook has increased the percentage of turned-in-late essays in my grade by 76%. I made that statistic up—writing blog posts or writing columns, you’re allowed to do that. You’re allowed to make up stories and anecdotes and quotes, because all that matters is the story. And if a story seems true, then truth doesn’t really matter.

After spending so much time in the library, I’ve learned something: old books smell so good.

Even if I don’t want to read a book, I will stand in the aisles, running my fingers on the spine. Sometimes, I go to the place in the fiction section where the Ba’s become Be’s , to see where my work might go. I check to see if there’s any room for more books there, to see if whether I wrote books, the librarians might have to rearrange everything. If I ever am published, I’d likely go to bookstores a lot. I’d sit in the aisles, telling people, “Hey, I wrote that book” if ever somebody picked it up. And we’d talk. Or not.

But if I ever get published and visit the library, I won’t say anything to anyone. I’ll sometimes visit my work, to flip through the pages. I hope it begins to smell musty, the cover get battered, and the pages yellow. Because to me, that sort of wear-and-tear is a distinction. Sometimes, I flip through the books I check out and wrench out receipts from past users, reading the foreign names of people who traveled this journey before me. I wonder whether or not the book made them feel quite the same way. I wonder if this book meant anything to them.

I love the library, because it is like a home I’ve yet to move into.

Sometimes, I go to visit others who call it home. Sometimes, I revisit my favorites, pulling them from the shelves, indulging in surreptitious sniffs. Sometimes, I come with a list and a sturdy face, tracking down books I’d like to read. Other times, I don’t have a list: no names. I just wander around, looking at the titles, bringing home books I’ve never heard of. I’m a biting, critical reader, so sometimes I’ll leave the book alone. Sometimes, I fall in love.

And I hope maybe I’ll be able to find a book with my name on it on those shelves. And I’ll hope someday, some kid will pick it up, flip through its pages and think, “Old books smell so good.”

~Derek Berry is a writer, poet, and blogger. You can find his blog here: http://derekberry.wordpress.com/. He often enjoys writing about the gritty underground of suburbia life and sometimes also about polar bears. He also enjoys entering libraries, displacing the books to annoy volunteer employees.  Derek is working on publishing his first bookThe Savagery of Sebastian Martinelli. So check out his stuff, or people will hate you.

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2 Responses to “Guest Blog: Old Books Smell Good”

  1. derekberry August 3, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

    Oh, man, I didn’t realize you had such talented friends!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. infromthecold - June 26, 2012

    […] Nobel Prize in Literature!!! I am excited! (Source: https://annaliseeberhard.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/guest-blog-old-books-smell-good/) Tagged book, literature, […]

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