Your book collection is a reflection of yourself, your tastes, your intellectual pursuits, your career, and your circumstances. Your books themselves can be unintentional markers of where you were or what you were doing at certain points in your life. And the items you use as placeholders instead of bookmarks can reveal another level of who you were or are. I started a new project, going through all of my books and photographing what was left in each book. I went through all the books in my apartment but have yet to go through the books in storage at my folks’ house. I started because I found two safety pins in a book. I can’t recall the book (I wish it was something appropriate like Legs McNeil’s Please Kill Me but it wasn’t). Regardless, I began to wonder what else I would find in my books.
There were too many items to include in this single entry. I still have more books to add for future blog posts. It’s fun to see who I was and what I was doing when I was reading these books. It’s interesting that many of the placeholders indicate an active social life while I’m sitting at home or on the bus reading a book. I have spent so much time out and about because if I don’t get out of my room, I’ll read or worse, watch tv all night. These placeholders reveal so much more than I remember about myself. Forgotten people, phone numbers. But they also remind me of how long I’ve known some friends, and how many states we have known each other. Whether that be physical states and mental states. They also reiterate the people that I’ve been friends with for many, many years. The ones that have seen me through going to shows like the Toiletboys and going to clubs ten years ago. And the ones that accepted my being a book nerd in the midst of a raging social scene.
What do you do when you love a writer but disagree or detest his personal choices and beliefs? When I was younger, a friend handed me Henry Miller. I was immediately seduced by his passion for life and his fast-paced language. He described everything with such joy and humor. He lived life to the fullest. This included using money his wife sent him to visit prostitutes. I was 18, and grew up a fundamentalist Christian. Paying women for sex was wrong. Cheating on your wife was wrong. Not having a 9-5 job was wrong. . . . There was a lot of wrong stuff happening in Tropic of Cancer. But I loved him and learned to separate him from his writing (which was tricky as a lot of his stuff is confessionalist.) But also, I was still brainwashed with these antiquated notions of what was right and wrong. Bukowski was another one. Dirty old man writing about drinking, women, gambling. But as I matured as a person and a reader I realized you could separate the artist from the art.