Magical power of books

Sunday, May 18, 2003

My books! My precious books. I would like to hug every one of them and once again thank all the authors and publishers for their life-enhancing qualities and the ability they have given me, through character identification, to live life on multiple levels.

I have books in every shelf of my erstwhile room -- cookbooks in the kitchen, short articles in the bathroom, inspirational, romance, historical and poetic in all the others.

The basement has escaped. But there are located hundreds of old magazines. I usually remember what magazine and what month of the issue I'm looking for to refresh my memory of some notable article, story or poem.

There is one brief brochure that is missing. It's entitled, "Five Acres and Independence." According to it, one had to have a goat for milk, about 10 laying hens, some blackberry and raspberry vines, and one generous garden plot. An apple tree and rhubarb were also necessities. Oh, it was good reading. Maybe I put it in the safety deposit box.

I was raised on a 180-acre farm. Did that make us super rich? I don't remember.

One good thing about my memory is that, though it is getting holes, I know where each book is located unless someone else has taken it out and not put it back in its appointed place. I once thought of having my library of books Dewey decimalized, but since I know where to find any particular book, I don't need Dewey.

There are two long bookshelves in two little rooms at the top of the stairs. In fact, the stairway divides them. One step up to the right, one step up to the left. On the lower shelf to the right are old daily journals. Then comes Steve's first books. The Thornton Burgess books about Ricky Raccoon, Sammy Jay, Old Granny Fox and many more. After that, there are a series of the Bobsey Twins. I once came near to making a big mistake about these. My niece saw them and asked for them. I agreed. I thought they might make some other children love to read. The niece had to go to town for some shopping. I called Steve, by now a high school teacher, to tell him what I had done. Mercy, I had to hold tightly to the phone to keep it off the floor. "No, not my books!" he said. As a result, I had to renege on the gift to my niece. She understood. Maybe it was in Steve's genes or he had caught some book germ from me.

Across the staircase, at the opposite row of books, in order to have a sense of balance, I placed a Braille copy of my first book, "The Mockingbird Piano." Have I mentioned we never threw away a book?

When I first got the Braille copy I thought, aha, I'll see what the first words of "Mockingbird Piano" are in Braille. There was only a single raised dot. Was this a word or a phrase or what? I quickly gave up my study of Braille.

Was there no "bummer" in the whole library? Yes, "Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago, Volume I." When this book was published it got rave reviews and tremendous publicity. Years later, I bought a copy of it at a book sale. I did my best to try to read it, but it was very difficult reading. Words that have a lot of consonants without any relief from the vowels are hard for me to read and digest.

I get a little panicky when I think books would be no more. With the ease of picking virtually anything you want to read off the Internet I think my fears are not unfounded. But oh, the joy of seeing the word, taking eye measurement of it, and listening to the sound of it, if you wish to read it aloud.

Please don't take my books away from me. Thoreau, Grayson, Grahame, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Frost, Tabor -- their names fall off my tongue like a jeweled rosary.


Jean Bell Mosley is an author and longtime resident of Cape Girardeau.

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