Confessions of a Book Lover

Today I stepped into the tsomet sfarim bookstore and bought two books. Now, obviously, I do not need these two – a novel in English and a book of poetry in Hebrew. I can’t even say when I’ll find time to read them. I have a shelf filled with two rows of books I have promised myself to read, and, now and then, by chance I happen upon the shelf and stare in wonder at this treasure I had forgotten that awaits me.  But then, I can’t even tell you how many books I’m reading now.

It may be three, but probably more. The other day, again at tsomet sfarim, there was a sale on a hardcover edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Mandelbaum translation.  How could I resist? It’s true I’ve tried several times previously to read the Commedia without success, and each time racked it up to a bad translation. This time, the opening stanzas seemed just right, and I knew I would be able to finish the magnum opus. So, here I am, somewhere in the fiery pits of the inferno.

On my shelf lies Gai Oni by Shulamit Lapid, a terrific historical novel in Hebrew that is, at least in Amazon, no longer available in English. I put Bambi (in Hebrew translation) aside and, yes, unfinished, for Gai Oni. Those were the three I counted previously. But what about books on Kindle?

I received a Kindle as a gift and promptly downloaded as many freebies as I could.  I didn’t mind that in this way I was perhaps sentencing myself to living on the edge of the 20th century, since nearly all the freebies are well before 1900. I reread “As You Like It” and began Boswell’s Life of Johnson, which I had always wanted to read. The Life of Johnson has the remarkable characteristic of being both tedious and engaging, as Boswell’s a bit of a bore whereas Johnson is brilliant. Have I finished that? No. Nor have I finished Perrault’s fairy tales – the French really is too hard, although I prefer to pretend (as always) that at the turn of a bend in time, I’ll have mastered French, which, much against my pretensions, deteriorates yearly. And then there is Thomas Hoover’s excellent book on Zen.

So that makes six.

Oh, I left Twain’s autobiography a while ago. I’m not sure whether that still counts. There comes a point when you decide that you’re actually not going to return to the book that only a month before captivated you. But have I really made that decision?

The other day, I got an email from someone who offered English classics for free. His wife got a Kindle and had decided she could keep all the books she wanted on the Kindle and make extra room in the house with the books she removes.  I cannot do that. I find I need the real thing and not just the virtual model. Reading in Kindle makes me appreciate hardcover books all the more. I want the heft and weight of them, the feel in my hands, that smell of fine paper. After a day or a week in Kindle, when a real, flesh and blood book falls into my hands, I feel as if I have discovered something new.

But then, I’ve barely made it into the 20th century.

Are there others out there like me?

About the Author
Living in Israel since 1974. Father of four children, grandfather of six. Worked as a kibbutznik, art critic, magazine editor, copywriter, and technical writer. Now freelance translator. Have lived in Jerusalem, Haifa, Tel-Aviv and Jaffa. Reside now in Pardess Hannah.