A Story by Ronald Ayers
Trying to decide which book to throw away out of your library is a difficult task.
By Ronald Ayers
With all the electronic, and computerized devices about like smartphones, Kindles, ipads, and ebook readers that people are using to read these days, why does anyone need an old fashioned paper and ink book?
This past weekend, I purchased a Kindle. A nifty little device the Kindle. It’s amazing all of the ebooks one can download onto the device. My first selection was “The Habits of Highly Effective People.” By Stephen Covey. In an effort to fully enter the modern age of reading, I’ve embarked upon a campaign to rid myself of all of my hardback and paperback books. I went into my home library this past Saturday determined to toss out all vestiges of Johannes Gutenberg’s accomplishments.
My book ridding campaign was a complete failure.
I discovered that nothing is more difficult for me than throwing out a book. I couldn’t even bring myself to throw away a terrible book such as my paperback edition of Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Horrible little paper hangar that Hitler. Spouting off about Lebensraum (Living Space for the German race), and killing people to obtain it.
As I see it, at about age forty, each of us should begin to throw away the books of our youth. We should probably throw away a book for each new book we acquire. That way your home library won’t be like mine— filled from floor to ceiling with hardback nonfiction books, and paperback novels that you started reading when you were age twelve.
If you’ve read and liked a book and taken a little of it into your life, you should keep it forever.
I would never part with my hardback copy of Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Capricorn.” This was one of the first erotic novels I ever read. I still get horny as I look at the book on my self. Miller lists the women he has bedded: a “simpleton” who lives upstairs in his coworker Hymie’s place; Veronica, with her “talking c**t”; Evelyn, with her “laughing c**t.”
Finally he lavishes dozens of pages on a nameless woman with whom he had an intense sexual relationship, a “plunder-bird” lady who wears only black and no underwear. She and Miller go to sleep at dawn and get up at dusk. They make love constantly. In between this running narrative of various women and sexual encounters, Miller describes two writers who profoundly marked him at this time in his life, when he was still developing as a reader and a writer: Fyodor Dostoevsky and Henri Bergson. Whew! Great stuff! Intellectual eroticism is what the world needs more of!
No. “Tropic of Capricorn” stays. It doesn’t take up much room. It has an attractive dust cover, and it provides evidence to visitors that I am literate and have an active libido.
The books I threw away, were the books that were junk books from the start. Books I acquired that were good at the time but which have no lasting value. This would include a novel like Jame Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room. Giovanni’s Room is James Baldwin’s second novel, first published in 1956. The book focuses on the events in the life of an American man living in Paris and his feelings and frustrations with his relationships with other men in his life, particularly an Italian bartender named Giovanni whom he meets at a Parisian gay bar.
Giovanni’s Room is noteworthy for bringing complex representations of homosexuality to a reading public with empathy, artistry, and thereby fostering a broader public discourse of issues regarding same-sex desire. I didn’t grasp the nuances of same-sex desire when I read Giovanni’s Room back in the sixties, shortly after I finished reading Tropic Of Capricorn. Giovanni goes in the garbage. Notice. I’m better than Adolph Hitler and his Nazi crowd, so I won’t be burning Jame Baldwin’s book.
As you can see, I ran into some real serious problems when it got right down to ridding myself of books. I have some big expensive, arty picture books like The Roman World by Tim Cornell and John Matthews. I love Roman history, but I”ve only looked at the book once. It’s over sized, and doesn’t fit neatly on my bookshelves. Even so, I can’t bring myself to ditch the darn thing, especially because I know no one else wants it.
I have volumes of old books, gilt-edged, some bound in leather. These books look good on my shelf. Honestly I’ve never read the collected works of Charles Dickens. I’d like to, but I’ve never gotten around to it. The collection was given to me by the only white woman I’ve ever made love to. A young French student named Janice Sires. She’d come by my apartment late at night. I’d read passages of Henry Miller to her, and she’d read passages from the erotic novels of Anais Nin to me. In between passages we’d—-we’d—–but that’s another story.
I did wind up throwing a few books away, but only a few. Two actually.
If you decide to rid yourself of some of your books, I’ve devised a set of rules you might want to follow. Throw out:
· Books of advice on how to make money, lose weight or have a happy marriage.
· Any books whose jacket says it’s “a torrid romance.”
· Any novel whose title brings to your mind no memory whatsoever of plot or character.
Finally, what I like most about books is something the Kindle just doesn’t have.
The smell of ink and paper.
There is something truly erotic in that.