September 04, 2013

The Characters You'll Meet

By Steve Locke

Maybe it's the smell of old books; the tangibility of them showing age in their yellowing pages.

Maybe it's not knowing what will turn up; running your fingers over the titles on spines until you find the one that you hold close while you check your pockets for change.

Maybe it's the nostalgia of familiar covers; the serendipity; the affordability.

Dibs on the Shakespeare biography!

Given that I was a student for the better part of my twenties, I accumulated a fair stack of novels from "required reading" lists at used book sales, which saved me a pretty penny during rush week.

Throughout the year, as we ticked off the titles on the reading list, I would gaze across the room at the homogeneity of book covers, being the current edition that the campus bookstore offered. I'd reveal my decade(s) old edition with muted pride, like I pulled a grizzled hipster out of my backpack (I had yet to trade in my cargo-khakis and Green Day t-shirt for skinny jeans and combat boots). While it would at least seem that I had a vested interest in learning the material over looking cool (ahem), I'd be privy to special insight via faded notes in the margin.

And when my attention waned from the reading, I would wonder who it was that had such small, articulate writing. Did they simply take in the novel, or did they absorb it with rapture and inspiration? Did they love the book? If so, how did they come to part with it? 

That's where a book becomes an entity beyond ink, paper and binding. It has a story to itself that one can only wonder about as it becomes a part of their own narrative.

Like leaving old friends and making new ones, many books of varying "freshness" have come and gone in my own life. And some have even found their way back (ten years after studying William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, I finally get it!). Maybe what I love most about old, used books is how they reveal what may be missing from our busy, digital, mass produced lifestyles: character.

I get it now - the mother is a fish!

Come down to The Forks Market this weekend (September 6-8) for Thin Air's used book sale/ festival fundraiser. Who knows, you might meet a few interesting characters yourself.

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