I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have a bookshelf. My dream has been to have a large room covered from floor to ceiling in bookshelves, accompanied by a few ladders that slide horizontally.
This bookcase has five shelves and is one of two cases in our current home. The top shelf has a few books that tell stories to me in addition to the ones printed inside the cover. Three of them are of special interest to me.
The Big Red Book, by Rumi, was sent to me as a gift by the American poet and translator Coleman Barks. He is the translator for the volume and several other Rumi texts. The gratitude that I felt upon receiving this edition from him is, to use a cliché, beyond words. I can remember finding out it was on its way, and the first moment I held the package. Most of all I savour the inscription the author wrote; it goes without saying the actual book was also a treasure.
The second special book is For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Hemingway. The copy is a bit tattered, the pages having suffered some from travel. I read this book many nights, in Puerto Morelos Mexico, while sitting under the soft, yellow glow of lights. A few curious lizards rested nearby, and we were happy there in the long stretch of blackness with only the sounds of the sea coming up towards us. Thousands of books have passed through my hands in my adult life, and I have read hundreds in their entirety. Never had I experienced writing such as this. Sometimes a sentence or passage was so perfect I would just stop and stare out to the dark in amazement.
The third special book is Death on the Installment Plan, by Louis-Ferdinand Celine. I have carried this book since adolescence. On the first page when Celine remarks that it has rained, and he wishes it would rain harder and knock the whole place down, I was hooked. In love. Maybe something in him and his words, such as “I wish the storm would make even more of a clatter, I wish the roofs would cave in, that spring would never come again, that the house would blow down,” and in what I call, the physicality of the book- its cover, size, photo artwork, or maybe all of that, felt in sync with an angst ridden adolescent poet.
Those are three. If the fates ever have it that I receive the wall to wall bookcases with the sliding ladders, I shall afford every one of the shelves’ inhabitants with just as much reverence.
Brian Michael Barbeito is a resident of Ontario, Canada. A Pushcart Prize nominee, his fiction writing is forthcoming in the magazines Kurungaaba, Bare Root, and Otis Nebula.