Wednesday, August 03, 2005

My Tribute to Libraries

When queuing at a supermarket line, I always notice various plastic cards gleaming when people brandish their purses. Credit cards, debit cards and all other plastic tools created for ease of purchase. My purse showcases another variety of cards-library cards.

Libraries always have a calming effect on me. There is something so reverential about the rows and rows of books lining up before your eyes and stretching away. Older libraries especially have a familiar bookish smell, one that quickly fills my spirit with quiet contentment. On ceaseless, truly depressing days, those days when my heart freezes over, when even a spot of retail therapy doesn’t work, I find myself looking for a library or bookshop. You see, then I can lose myself in other people’s minds. While being gruff and monosyllabic.

I do get terribly crossed when books are not in their correct shelves. I find it very insulting to see that a book has not been categorized properly. It’s like living forever in somebody else’s house, I tell the librarian in despair. How will you feel?

Even as a child, I had an affinity for libraries. Whenever we had a free period in school, I being the geek that I was, would head of to the library to find a new read. It wasn’t a big school and the library was small. By the end of primary school, I had read most of the books there.

For many years, I couldn’t afford to buy much books. I just couldn’t go to a bookshop and pick from a choice. So, libraries became my sanctuary. There wasn’t much of anything else going on in my little town. But I knew I could change the world if I wanted to. I could become anybody I wanted when I read. With books, I truly believed that I could achieve, not just aspire, to paraphrase Oprah Winfrey.

When I was older, I dreamed of falling in love in a library. The idea of having a good looking man reach out for the same book as I was something that fuelled many youthful romantic fantasies. That happened to Latha in Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy. Okay, she and Kabir meet in a bookshop but that’s my second favourite place after all (Many years later, I would meet my husband in the most ordinary place but we are in every sense of the word truly happily married, our first meeting notwithstanding).

Anyone who spends a crazy amount of time looking for books in library depositories and still enjoys it must be absolutely mad. Depositories are those dingy places at basements where they store out-dated books, ones that are out of print, out of circulation and out of general interest. When I find Roland Mitchell in A.S.Byatt’s Possessions spending an inordinate time at the basement of the British Library, I truly feel his pangs of anxiety. What treasure will he discover among all the dusty tomes?

My love for libraries was always fuelled by my parents. Whenever there were birthdays or when we did well in school, my sisters and I always got book gifts. We read together and I always shared my stories with them. These are happy memories of my girl-hood. One day, I will share the books that I adored as a child with you. Soon.


At 8/03/2005 06:01:00 am, Blogger faux diamante said...

if u are like virginia woolf then i like you already. kakteh was so excited about ur blog n here i am checking it out. you rock!

i will come here more often via sentraal

At 8/03/2005 06:03:00 am, Blogger Kak Teh said...

sunshine, when I went back to uni, I almost packed my sleeping bag and coffee flask to camp between shelves H and G. I'd emerge from thelibrary with my neck set on one side, stiff, after reading all those titles. Oh u will fall in love with our library! anyway, my husband and I did conduct our courtship in bookshops! *sigh*

At 8/03/2005 06:15:00 am, Blogger Jane Sunshine said...

Nazrah, Hello.

Kak Teh, how absolutely romantic to be in love among books. Yes, I adore the British libraries already.

At 8/03/2005 10:38:00 am, Blogger NurElsa said...

Oh, I am still wishing and praying to find my One in a library or a bookstore! Er, but I havent been in library in ages. But you can find me in a book store every so often! Or! :P

Love your blog. Please share your fav books!!!

At 8/03/2005 01:08:00 pm, Blogger Kak Teh said...

Just came back from Books Etc - with Glass Palace - totaly your fault if I dont complete my dissertation!

At 8/03/2005 04:48:00 pm, Blogger Kak Teh said...

sorry - its Waterstones. Anyway, spent a good two hours in the library and my dissertation is well on its way - two paras!

At 8/03/2005 05:07:00 pm, Blogger Jane Sunshine said...

Kak Teh, I am sure that you will enjoy The Glass Palace though I must warn you that it has heavy historical background. It is certainly not leisurely reading but worth the effort, I assure you. Good to hear about your dissertation. You go girl.

At 8/03/2005 05:45:00 pm, Blogger Kak Teh said...

jane, my research is in anything history - so this is fine. also am researching the travels of the malays here..there are some that i have reproduced in my blog.

At 8/03/2005 07:28:00 pm, Blogger Jane Sunshine said...

Kak Teh, I have been following your research of malay sailors with interest.Fascinating. I am a bit of a history buff myself. I am particularly interested in the communist insurgency and the freedom struggle during this period. So many momentous historical struggles/journeys have been buried in obscure history books. People just dont bother to remember or talk about them. Nice to know that you are a kindred spirit.

At 8/05/2005 04:44:00 am, Blogger Lindsey said...

great post!

At 10/20/2005 09:39:00 am, Blogger Frankensteina said...

I just love the smell of new books...and how the pages feel so crispy when we turn them


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Hello. Prompt how to get acquainted with the girl it to me to like. But does not know about it
I have read through one history
Each of you has your personal story; it is your history. Keeping a diary or writing your feelings in a special notebook is a wonderful way to learn how to think and write about who you are -- to develop your own identity and voice.

People of all ages are able to do this. Your own history is special because of your circumstances: your cultural, racial, religious or ethnic background. Your story is also part of human history, a part of the story of the dignity and worth of all human beings. By putting opinions and thoughts into words, you, too, can give voice to your inner self and strivings.

A long entry by Anne Frank on April 5, 1944, written after more than a year and a half of hiding from the Nazis, describes the range of emotions 14-year-old Anne is experiencing:

". . . but the moment I was alone I knew I was going to cry my eyes out. I slid to the floor in my nightgown and began by saying my prayers, very fervently. Then I drew my knees to my chest, lay my head on my arms and cried, all huddled up on the bare floor. A loud sob brought me back down to earth, and I choked back my tears, since I didn't want anyone next door to hear me . . .

"And now it's really over. I finally realized that I must do my school work to keep from being ignorant, to get on in life, to become a journalist, because that's what I want! I know I can write. A few of my stories are good, my descriptions of the Secret Annex are humorous, much of my diary is vivid and alive, but . . . it remains to be seen whether I really have talent . . .

"When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that's a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer? I hope so, oh, I hope so very much, because writing allows me to record everything, all my thoughts, ideals and fantasies.

"I haven't worked on Cady's Life for ages. In my mind I've worked out exactly what happens next, but the story doesn't seem to be coming along very well. I might never finish it, and it'll wind up in the wastepaper basket or the stove. That's a horrible thought, but then I say to myself, "At the age of 14 and with so little experience, you can't write about philosophy.' So onward and upward, with renewed spirits. It'll all work out, because I'm determined to write! Yours, Anne M. Frank

For those of you interested in reading some of Anne Frank's first stories and essays, including a version of Cady's Life, see Tales From the Secret Annex (Doubleday, 1996). Next: Reviewing and revising your writing

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