In the High Peaks

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tuesday Evening: Book from the Shelves

A book from my personal bookshelves, that is. I'd like to do a regular bit on this topic. I have plenty of fodder for the cannon, because for all of my life, I've found it unbearably difficult to part with the books I've read and, as a result, have an absurdity of wealth made of pages.

This afternoon, before I even reached our bookshelves in the living room, I knew the book I was searching for. Would I find it? I wasn't absolutely sure because I haven't opened its pages in decades.

In 1964, or 1965--might it have been 1966?--my Aunt Ruth, my mother's oldest sister by 12 years, gave me a luxurious copy of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. The minute she spotted this new edition at the Hathaway House Bookshop where she worked, she couldn't wait to buy it for me. She tucked it away for Christmas, and when I received it, I was thrilled. The edition was so beautiful. After I opened the gift, I flipped through the glossy, thick pages over and over. The illustrations were pen-and-ink and stencil, remarkably. It was the cover art and the paper quality that bowled me over, though. It was perfect in its simplicity. Cream-colored pages. I was in love.

I recall that Christmas vacation and January, propped up by plump pillows and covered by thick blankets. I read and read, transported so completely into the world of Jo March and her sisters. It was a transformative experience. When I finished the book, and read about Amy's good luck and her accomplishments, I felt la tristesse of bidding adieu to a world that I knew I would never, ever reenter in the same way. As I turned the last page, I vividly remember the sun shining out my window on icicles dripping off our roof. 

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