Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The books you save may be your own

Ours is a pretty strange apartment. So, on that excruciatingly hot move-in day back in June, Adam abruptly re-routed a few items to the basement, which was easier for the movers to access. Four large cartons of books he asked them to stack in the basement corner. These were "low priority" books from his old office. Segregating them made sense, Adam said, as they would soon be transported to his new office.

Five weeks later, Adam had moved into his new office. The basement cartons remained untouched. Six weeks later, I realized with horror that the basement windows leak, and that, in the wake of a heavy downpour, part of the bottom carton had become damp. I pointed this out to Adam and offered to help him relocate his books right then. He declined, citing other priorities, and noting that any of the books in that bottom box couldn't be all that important, since he hadn't been missing them.

This burned me up at the time. It bothered me that A. would willfully let books get mildewed, even if he didn't happen to need them. It also didn't fit my normally bibliophilic husband. After all, it was he who showed near physical grief the time I, in a fit of impotent fury, threw a deceitful woman's novel out into the rain. In that instance, it was he who raced outside to rescue the offending paperback, and who later secreted it away on a high shelf to protect it from further abuse.

So why this utter lack of concern for an entire carton of books? I resolved to salvage the bottom carton myself—but then stopped, feeling indignant at A's carelessness. So I deliberately turned my back on his soggy books, reasoning that to do otherwise was to enable his maddening absent-minded professor routine.

Fast forward three more weeks. I'm working on a conference paper and can't, for the life of me, locate a much-beloved book that I need to complete the project. I reason that the student to whom I lent the book last semester must never have returned it. Mourning the lost book (and my lost marginal notes), I drift back to the bookcase to check on a collection of other wonderful, recently acquired books that will form the cornerstore of my new research project this fall. I can picture exactly where, on the lower hallway shelf, these particular books reside...

...but the shelf is bare.

I feel a little woozy then, in the mingling of time present and time past. I was certain that I had stood here—right here—just a few weeks ago and unpacked those books! But, oh!, what if memory is playing that tape backwards? What if what really happened is that I had stood there, in the old house? What if I had instead pulled those books from that shelf... and loaded them into an oversized carton?

Ten minutes later, I'm standing in a puddle in the basement. A puddle that now harbors a colony of squirmy black worms, thank you very much. I have a scissors in my hand and a grim expression on my face.

Top box: Adam's books. (Outdated stuff. Hand-me-downs.)

Second box: Also Adam's. (Novels. Freebie teaching anthologies.)

Third box: Adam's again. (Really old journals he promised he would dump before the move.)

Bottom box....

Bad news if it's mine. Bad news if it's not.

Bottom box…

I gingerly tap a worm off the box with the toe of my sneaker. Then I take a deep breath and slip the scissors under the packing tape...

On the bright side, the worms are only on the outside of the box. Yeah, and on the bright side, I didn't lose that book to a student after all. There it is, albeit with wavier pages than before. There, indeed, are ALL of my new—and moldy—books.

In the $%#&-ing BOTTOM BOX. That I chose not to save. And that A. hasn't missed.

That's how he knew it was unimportant.


At 8:48 AM, Blogger What Now? said...

Oh no! What a terrible loss. I'm mourning with you.

Are the books replaceable? That is, are they still in print, even if it's awfully expensive to buy new copies?

At 9:24 AM, Blogger YelloCello said...

Certain books that were not near the damp part of the box actually did fine. They seem to have been protected by the (absorbant!) books surrounding the spill. Only two books -- both hardbacks -- are really ruined. A lot of the others don't look as nice any more and will probably smell musty forever. Curiously, the dust jackets on a few of the hardbacks seem to have been key to preventing even more spoilage. from the My plan is to lay them out in the sun today, just to make them a little more sanitary to handle. After that...? Does it make sense to put books in a dehydrator? (I don't have a dehydrator. I'm just trying to get creative here.) To plant them next to a dehumidifyer? I can't afford to buy all new copies right now.

I feel so stupid for not having insisted that we relocate the books. I knew that was the right thing to do, so I just should have done it. Gah.

At 7:40 PM, Anonymous New Kid on the Hallway said...

Oh, how frustrating! I don't mind writing all over my books, but I don't like getting them wet and messy. And how frustrating that you nearly saved them! (And such disregard to danger to books! Hmph!)

At 7:30 PM, Blogger PPB said...

Oh. You are owed. Big time. Thou shalt not mess with books!!!!


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