18 January 2023

The bookstore

A co-trainer once talked about losing her appetite for books — They don't hold the same magic for me anymore — which I thought was sad, if unimaginable. The opposite of death is desire, after all.

Somewhere between that conversation and a point in time I cannot locate, I, too, had a cooling off with books.

A feeling of betrayal grows. Like turning your back on someone who has given you so much. Even though these books owe me nothing.

Then you miss the self who glows at the sight of a rare copy, and being the first to read a new title.

We are allowed to change. Cut the cords of passion. It is the books themselves, though, that continue to assert their worth.

Bookstores have dwindled in number, and in those few standing, the actual book shelves have become fewer.

Meanwhile, I, force of habit, enter one whenever I'm nearby. There are still authors and series that I look for, though gone is the urgency to buy. To own and be possessive.

A couple of years back I made a conscious effort to read (at least) a book a month. Because we are what we practice (and what we pretend to be), and I want to be a life-long reader.

My collection's complete

Last year the fiction and poetry have been heavily replaced by music notations. I also want to be a life-long piano player, an ambition rekindled (as much as I hate to admit it) during the pandemic.

I am happy to be reading with thoughtfulness, proud that I make sacrifices to carve out hours for this discipline. Incidentally my excitement towards book-hunting returns. It started when I found two old editions ofMikrokosmos after visiting several stores.

Later on I ordered the missing volumes from a local music shop. They were only able to supply me with another two volumes, though both were brand new and from a good publisher.

My fantasy of owning the entire Béla Bartók collection came to fruition three days ago. I tagged along with my sister to a faraway mall in the North. There at the bookstore that shall not be named, I saw a single copy of Volume III, and then picked the least damaged copy of Volume V.

The trip felt familiar. Hope, giving up, managing expectations, digging through piles of paper, hunching over, squatting, efficient sales staff, ignorant sales staff.

Why not just go online-shopping?

Walking to and around a store and being heart-broken (at worst) gives me a rush; waiting for delivery to arrive stresses me out. So do the greater hassles of exchanges and returns.

More importatnly, I need to see if it fits. I need to touch it. Weigh it. Ensure a damage-free product. Ponder how much imperfection I am willing to embrace. What else? For me online shopping — call me conventional — is just less magical.

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