I took my 3 boys to the public library last night. We almost didn’t go because I was a bit worn-out by the end of the day and the boys were being extremely rowdy (read: engaging in “pretend” warfare and having the nerve to whine about the real casualties which resulted). But I was glad we went because it was great therapy for all of us, especially me.
SAT analogy of the day – Going to the library : Julie : : Going on an excursion to Bath : characters in Jane Austen stories.
I love the library. I love reading. I love books. I have been known to get a little high from the smell of a new paperback. When I was young, I would ride my bike to the library and spend hours sitting cross-legged on the floor between the shelves reading until my butt fell asleep. Then I would ride home with my death-defying trick of steering a bike while hauling a bag full of books and holding one open on the handlebars so I could read on the way.
One year for a little extra Christmas money I worked for the season in a bookstore. This was a mistake in the order of hiring a drug-addict to work in a pharmacy. Naturally, the majority of my paycheck never left the building. I wasn’t an ideal employee either since customers were a nuisance – forever interrupting my reading right in the middle of a good part. How rude.
I fail in many aspects of parenting (don’t make me list the ways…) but if I have done one thing right, I’m proud of instilling in my children a love of books. Our house is full of them (children and books) and despite the fact that we have bookshelves in every room, as I glance around right now, I see at least one book on every horizontal surface in sight, including several on the floor. But in my home, books do not qualify as clutter. They are accessories. Like an afghan draped casually across the coffee table or tasseled pillows on the sofa, books strewn about are chic accent pieces. My husband has yet to fully embrace this bold new decorating statement, but I’m working on him.
I love the tradition in Christian art of showing Mary reading a book. I like to think of Mary as a reader. Somebody had to teach Jesus to read and Joseph was probably too busy in the carpentry shop. One of Mary’s many titles is “Our Lady of the Book.” This impresses me, especially considering the fact that many of these paintings come from a time when women were not encouraged to read and books were still a rare and precious commodity. But there’s Mary, holding a book, or sitting with a book on her lap, or kneeling in front of a small lectern with an open book. Tradition states that Mary is reading the scriptural prophecies she herself is helping to fulfill. I wonder if she fully understood them.
Another secular variation on this theme is Fragonard’s Woman Reading a Book. Fragonard’s reader sits in profile as if she were just far too preoccupied to pose properly for the portrait. Everything in the painting strikes me as comfortable – the huge overstuffed cushion that serves as her backrest, the crumpled ribbons on her dress and upswept hair, the rosette of puffy sleeve that flows over the armrest, and the delicate way her fingers curl around the palm-sized book she holds. She is not a scholar pouring over a weighty tome. She is a leisure reader absorbed in her favorite pastime.
Some people predict that we will soon have a paper-less society. I say I hope I’m dead and long buried before then. You can keep your on-line archives and your e-books. My idea of heaven is miles of full bookshelves, an eternity of time, and no overdue fines.
Tags: library, art, books, Mary, Fragonard