Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Marcel Proust Moment

          The other day I opened the bookcase to get a book, and the headiest perfume wafted out. I stuck my entire head into the case and inhaled.
          Equal parts aged paper and binding glue, this fragrance transported me immediately to my hometown library; specifically, to the children's section, where it always lingered in the stacks. It is, along with a certain book, one of my earliest (and fondest) literary memories.

The book that started my love affair with words. And pictures.

          This is the smell of magic. Of getting my library card and feeling all grown-up. Of the office in which our wonderful library director kept her collection of eraser dragons (because every library should be guarded by minuscule, gaudily-colored rubber dragons). Of the first book that bewitched me.

          The taste of madeleines and tea was all that it took for Marcel Proust to bang on for volumes about all the things he remembered from his childhood. I fear I am incapable of such a sustained effort; I get distracted far too easily by pretty shiny objects, dogs who need grooming, videos of cats playing in boxes, the history of the Phrygian cap, the mysterious and amazing fact that you can make a pretty sweet cello out of carbon fiber these days. Oh, and by going to the library. Where there are all these books.* About pretty shiny objects, dog grooming, making videos of your cat, the history of headgear, how to make your own musical instruments.

          If I did write a book about my childhood in a library, it would not run to multiple volumes. It would be one slim volume, and after the title page—Remembrance of Libraries Past—and the front matter, it would say, "Go the the library. Find a book. Read it. Repeat until your childhood is full of words and memories."

*I know there are CDs and DVDs and magazines and computers and as well. I always intend to investigate them. But I am always distracted by the books.

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