A few days ago I unpacked my office. Having been without my books for several weeks, this was a moment of joy. In the time without my books I discovered a feeling of displacement, a kind of disorientation of self. I have many books. Some I have read, some I have analyzed and written papers on, some that are waiting to be cracked open. While unpacking and placing them on their shelves it was as if I was unpacking parts of myself. All these authors whose words I once felt on my tongue and the memories of moments in time when we (the narrators, authors and I) became friends: William Carlos Williams, Carole Maso, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Lewis Carol, Jean Rhyes, Raymond Carver, Silvia Plath, Saul Williams, Edwidge Danticat, and yes, even J.K. Rowling. These and so many more, now a part of me.
To touch them again. To open them up and smell their pages. To run my hand over their covers.
I can’t imagine a world without them. Without the tactile experience of “the book.” Today I sat in the middle of the floor looking over every spine. I grabbed a couple books and opened them, reading the first words I saw. When I got to Rilke’s, Letters to a Young Poet, the first words I read hit the spot:
“There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all –ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple “I must,” then build your life according to this necessity; your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it.”
When I step inside this doorframe I am stepping into myself, into home. The same smells and feelings of comfort. My writing is guided by their influence. They offer me worlds I may never get to experience, people I will never get to meet and ways of structuring language that I learn from. Attachments to such things seem silly to my logical mind, but to my soul this all makes sense.