Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Guilty Pleasures

Guilty Pleasures

By Rebecca Cantrell

What’s the guiltiest pleasure on my bookshelf?


I’m vaguely guilty about all the stacks of books I have that won’t even fit onto my shelves, but not enough to give them top billing. Because, really, they’re just a sign that I will never catch up and read them all and where’s the pleasure in that? (I know, the pleasure is in the journey of reading the ones I do get to. Thank you, Mr. Zen.)

The guiltiest pleasure on my bookshelf is my collection of newspapers from the 1930s. Here’s how it looks all tucked away nicely. It seems nice and safe and non-guilt inducing. And yet…
First off, it cost more than my Spartan soul can justify. I got them mostly on e-bay, for a song, and they are tax-deductible because I use them to write my books. But still, I probably could have found scanned in versions online for free. Version that did not have the delightful scent of old newspaper and ink. Versions that did not feel smooth under my caressing fingertips. Versions that you couldn’t leaf through, just as the original subscriber did, eighty long years ago. Yes, pleasures of the eye and nose and hand won out over common sense. Guilty.

Secondly, I worry that those priceless artifacts will be destroyed while under my protection. Much like the dining room table that has needed to be refinished for ten years. And don’t even get me started on the sorry condition of the chairs. Back to the bookshelf. Those newspapers are made of lovely old paper. And Kona eats paper. It covers it with mildew. It sends silverfishes scurrying in. It dispatches geckoes to poop on it. And I have recklessly brought those newspapers here.
I try to keep them safe. I store them in a blue archival box recommended by a friend who sets up museum exhibits (nice job at the California Academy of Sciences, BTW, Pixie!). It’s acid free and protects against gecko poop and maybe silverfish. I have a dehumidifying box in there that has magic crystals that suck the moisture out of the air to protect the paper from mildew. But when I took the box down for these pictures, the indicator crystal had changed from friendly blue to poisonous pink. It’s in the oven now, having the moisture backed out of it, but how long was it pink? What evil befell the newspapers during the weeks it might have sat there, flashing out a pink beacon of despair?

I don’t know. But I know it’s all my fault.

Still, I think I will go re-read those newspapers one more time before they succumb…

What’s YOUR guilty bookshelf pleasure?

11 comments:

Ross Brown said...

I don't have anything nearly as interesting as what you have on your bookshelf, but there is one collection with which I indulge myself.

My shelves are generally stacked with fiction novels-I'm an avid reader (I'm currently reading "A Trade of Smoke"), but there is one anthology that I like to occasionally reach for: "Calvin and Hobbes." I love the mischievousness of Calvin and the wit and wisdom of Hobbes.

I don't usually read comics, but this is one I can read over and over, and laugh every time.

Meredith Cole said...

I'm sure you get inspired often, Becky, by having the "real thing" accessible.

Calvin & Hobbes is a great guilty pleasure, Ross! Those comics still make me laugh, too.

Michael Wiley said...

A great post, Rebecca. Florida humidity treats books almost as harshly as Hawaii, but I too insist on keeping (and trying my best to preserve) a few items that really belong in a humidity-controlled research library. Somehow, I don't think people will love their old electronic readers in seventy or two hundred years as much as we love our books.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Hey Ross! Thanks for stopping by! Calvin and Hobbes is such a great collection, isn't it? I used to be Hobbes, but as I get older, I lean more toward Calvin (and, yes, I know, it's supposed to be the other way around).

Rebecca Cantrell said...

That's what I tell myself, Meredith! Thanks for helping me with the denial!

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Michael: There is something about the tactile nature of books, isn't there? But I wonder if people used to talk about the reassuring weight of the stone tablet, back in the day. Still, I'll miss the book when it's gone.

Best of luck at beating back the humidity. Those little metal desicants are very cool. And they last forever, just dry 'em out in the oven.

Rochelle Staab said...

Newspapers - what an inspiring resource, Rebecca!

My bookshelf guilty pleasure is three Nancy Drew first editions from the 30s. I cherish them - someday, someday, I hope to own every title in the first set written before politically correct Nancy appeared.

I love the convenience of my Kindle but, damn, will my bookshelves become the designated parking lot for reference books? No great old 21st century novels with unique covers waiting to be reread?
sigh.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Hi, Rochelle! I hope your bookshelves do not have such a bleak future in store. And soon those bookshelves will have a copy of your very OWN book on them. That's a great feeling too.

Joshua Corin said...

I wish I had a Spartan soul.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Josh, they're grouchy, but they don't need much in the way of personal items.

Steve Anderson said...

Great to see those old Zeitungen kept so well. Spendy but worth it, I'm sure. My older parents passed me down newspapers and magazines from the 30s and 40s, including Life and Colliers (!), and they seem to do pretty well here in Oregon kept in an old trunk. That said, I better check!