Last week I hired a professional organizer. Long-story short, my bookshelf is now where it belongs – in my home-office, with all of my favourite books on it.
There’s the Pelican Shakespeare, with the tissue paper leaves; The Tragedies, The Comedies, The Histories and The Romances. This is the Shakespeare that I used to lie in bed with, cram for my mid-terms with, enjoy with a glass of white wine in the days before I was sophisticated enough for red wine.
Timothy Findley, himself, signed that copy of You Went Away. I stood in line, he signed it, I slammed it shut and I scurried away with my autographed copy, like a squirrel with a treasured nut. Later, I opened it to read my sage’s inscription at my leisure, and share it with my friend. To our amazement, and then hilarity, we could not decipher what on earth he had written. “Cordially free”? I looked at her. We peered at the handwriting again. Cordially free? For years, my girlfriend and I would happily greet each other with, “cordially free!” It was only yesterday that I opened it again, 17 years later, and there – clear as a bell – it says “with cordial feelings.”
There is the copy of Marshall McLuhan’s Counter-Blast. Inside the front cover is a plate: Awarded to Joyce Grant of Woburn Collegiate Institute for Outstanding Achievement in CREATIVE WRITING; Dated this 20th day of February, 1981. A fittingly formal kick-off to what will prove to be a lifelong career in writing (albeit, not every word of which will turn out to be either creative or outstanding).
The first-edition Gone With The Wind from my first husband — now himself, gone with the wind.
My Norton Anthologies, from which I’d proudly slogged through The Faerie Queene and Paradise Lost – until someone years later pointed out that both were “abridged,” and doused any hope I had of bragging that I’d read either of them all the way through.
Every book on my shelf tells a story.
I pass my fingers over the embossing on the covers. I open the older books and riffle the pages to smell the memories. The sight of my bookshelf, back where it belongs, by my side in the room where I write each day, almost makes me cry.
And that is why your kid needs a bookshelf of his own.