Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Call of Books

A few days ago, I arranged my books from the huge disarray left by my eagerness to read them when finally late at night, I finish my day. In bed, facing my inner thoughts, I get to open a book. I put much on hold for this moment.  Needless to say, I love books.  Not the electronic books, but the real paper ones that you hold in your hands while you turn each page like some silent treasures and complete fantasies that echo in your mind and unleash your imagination.

I used to go to visit a book binder when I lived in South America.  The moment I entered his shop, the wonderful smell would grab my nose with visions of glue, gold leaf, old parchments and leather in many colors all ready for him to do his craft. The many shelves would dispatch me to another lifetime when monks copied rare books by hand and traced these great illuminations to add a touch of color to the first page and specially to the first letter.

A friend of mine also floated sheets of paper on salt water loaded with pigments destined for the first page of old and precious edition books that we relish in our collection.

I have lots of books.  Some are quite old, some are in French or Spanish, most are in English now, some I have given in complete collections to others as I left a country or a town. Many are on my many bookshelves tantalizing me with their silent calls.

Did I say I love books?  I buy them everywhere.  In Barnes and Noble, Borders, little bookstores, thrift stores, online, and wherever I can find them.  Oh yes, they accumulate!  I have bookshelves with books two rows deep and only in my bedroom are there five bookcases with more books laying on the ground beckoning me to read them.

Books reveal complete worlds of thoughts to us and have multiplied since they are now printed in huge numbers overseas and also here in so many presses in America.  The source is unlimited.    

I still remember the French books of my childhood, pages uncut that you read with an ornate paper cutter and insane curiosity never knowing exactly what the next page would reveal.

Books remind me of my grandmother who spent her money on foreign books bought for me in the years of my adolescence; she would show me my grandfather's collection, carefully bonded with his initials in gold on leather. She also showed me books printed in France by my ancestors, crowned by the French Academy that linger in my mind and inspired me to take a pen and write.

I also remember my uncle's books that he lent me once a week as if he was a library. He kept them upstairs behind glass locked by key in a long bookshelf. A book returned meant another book lent. A most private collection.

I remember books I passed to friends and never recovered or books returned to me, covered and cherished. And I remember ancient books by the Seine in Paris in little cases that I could not bring home, not having the room for them in my small suitcase.

Books, I suppose, will always transport me to someone's imagined world, a foreign land of thought and ideas, explosions of the mind with the mystery of words put elegantly together to seduce me and attract me in the vortex of their pages.         

copyright Micheline Brierre 2010


  1. oh, what an ode to books! I also have piles of books beside my bed, stacks and stacks waiting for me, like the good friends they are . . . after a satisfying day of working hard, my rest and reward is to retire to my bed, with a real, page-turnable book . . . I fall asleep, with the book in my hand, til Jack comes and slips it out of my grasp and turns off the light. Ah!

  2. Michou,
    Let me thank you for sharing your beautiful blog with us. This is so wonderful. Believe it or not, I am just like you with regards to books. I was complaining the other day that I have to clean my bedroom and remove the bookcases but Renate, my daughter, told me that as far back as she can remember, I have always been surrounded by books. She is right. It looks clustered and packed and a whole mess but my room, I feel, is warm and it is a very "neat" mess if there is such a thing. On top of it, I married a man who also loves books and has his share of them. He also comes from a family of poets and writers. His uncle and godfather is Luc Grimard who was well known in the Haitian literature. I miss you so much. I wish you were closer. Anyway, with the modern technology, it is easier to keep in touch.

  3. Michou cherie , I love your beautiful page on books and I could almost smell the odor of books pages the new and the old . I could smell especially the gray sylabaire with a big black Y and the big S for souris wich was my first school book and the story of a green lezard, "la famille emeraude" an old book of my godmother.Bravo Michou

    love cousine Nounette

  4. You are such a great writer!!! I love your
    way with words and your imagery is wonderful. Great photo of the squirrel
    and of you and the grandkids.

    Keep writing!!!!!
    Susan R

  5. You might be surprised to learn that my brother's partner, Michael, is an incunabulist! He has pages and books from the earliest printing presses of the 1400s. I have seen the hand-drawn gold serifs illuminating the first words of a chapter. I have witnessed history lying in vintage vellum. Naturally I cannot understand the Olde English or Latin countenance, however, Michael owns this skill. He even has a first edition of "Canterbury Tales". I feel so privileged to be included on a "share day". You would not believe the thousands it costs to be counted as an incunabulist.

  6. Dear Micheline,
    This short story about all the books in your life reminded me of my summers as an adolescent working for the Library in Montréal, writing the code in the back of the books....and of course I would spent my lunch hour looking for unusual books. After these 3 summers I started buying books every chance I had, and I had a lot of them before I moved to the US...unfortunatly with each move I had to get rid of some of the most beautiful ones, I couln't keep them all because of the lack of space to keep them. But that's ok, I still can enjoy what's in the library.
    Thankd for sharing your thoughts about books, I feel the same way, they're wonderful!
    Micheline, in LC

  7. Micheline, your words breathe life into books. They spring alive to instruct, inspire, love and open our minds to new tastes, fields and hitherto unknown pleasures. Mes compliments.

  8. Ahhhh something we can all agree on....the wonder of books. We too are pushing them aside to do the rest of our day only to delve back in to the pile as soon as the modern world permits.
    Since we have never had a TV and raised our children as readers this is a post very dear to our hearts. Thank you M~