Thursday, November 20, 2014

When did I have that dream about being in a bookstore, where there was no ceiling but just a wooden frame, above which there were more shelves with more books, and the place was lit by bare, incandescent bulbs, hanging on wires from out of the darkness? Was it more than one dream? In the dream we were looking for some book, a magical book of some kind. Who were we?

When I was a little kid I’d ride with my dad as he drove to used bookstores around Connecticut to satisfy his, what do you call it, addiction to collecting. His collecting addiction. When you search “collecting addiction” you come across something someone wrote called “How Collecting Opium Antiques Turned Me Into an Opium Addict,” which is funny, damn funny, right down to the letters all properly capitalized in the title—I don’t know that I’ve ever felt the proper use of title case to be funny and I do not know why I feel that it is now—of that thing, whatever it is, an essay or a memoir or just some desperate cry into the void. Anyway maybe it’s bibliophilia. Except he also had it with records and I don’t know what the word is for that.

We’d drive for a while on the back roads, through towns like Thompson, Manchester, Eastford, Scotland. Little fucking towns where there’s nothing going on church suppers and 4-H fairs, no one hanging out but scarecrows and jack-o-lanterns. Sometimes he’d let me grab the steering wheel. In the few seconds that I gripped it in my sweaty left hand I saw everything more clearly: the trees, the lawns, the houses, the cracked and crumbling tar where the road met the ditch.

We’d arrive at some dusty little bookstore and while he scanned the first few pages of dozens of books, hoping to find a first edition, I sat morosely, utterly oblivious of the book-bound universes around me. It’s not that I couldn’t read. I just didn’t want to.