Saturday, July 25, 2009

Just Say NO to Books

Being unemployed requires restraint and discipline to stay within a budget, live more simply, and eliminate excess.  And I was doing fine until Friday, when a friend told me that the 25th Newberry Library Book Fair had started.

This is a grand research library that raises funds with a donated book sale each year—a sale unlike any other. Someone always discovers a rare monograph, a first edition, an out-of-print favorite there. And since it's the 25th event this weekend, it's likely to be the biggest ever. (The Newberry plays a role in Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife.)

I feel trapped somewhere between being grounded and struggling through rehab (neither of which I've ever experienced, by the way, but I've enough imagination to get the gist). The spending freeze that unemployment dictates can easily be interpreted as punishment—punishment for losing a good job, for not finding another right away, for relying on government handouts. But worse than feeling punished can be the ache of suppressed desires. And books create a near-addictive craving in me.

Now admittedly I have a goal to reduce my library inventory, which only reinforces the decision to skip the big sale. But the way I FEEL about the decision must be similar to the reaction of a newly sober 12-Stepper invited to an alcohol-fueled party of close friends. I've been in hypergear ever since, trying to keep from thinking about competing against fellow bibliophiles for treasures—to forget about scanning hundreds upon hundreds of spines for the one I don't have, the one I could get for my sister, the one I wouldn't have paid full price for but don't mind purchasing for a buck, the one that's so stunningly illustrated that I can't not have it. 

Hmm. I'm thinking about those books right now: what they smell like, why they've been surrendered to the sale, the history they represent of their authors' lives, whom they're going home with instead of me.

The sale ends today, so I'm in the home stretch of my self-imposed restraint. Nevertheless, I have to continue keeping busy.  

Farewell! My laundry awaits . . .

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