Journal » Trout 17 » Cubbyhole [1] [Peter Wells]
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Cubbyhole [1]

Peter Wells


I saw something the other day which disturbed me. It was a second hand bookshop with a load of books outside. As I came closer, I saw the bookshop was closed and the books were 'free for removal'. I looked at them: old encyclopaedias, odd and interesting and uninteresting books. But what struck me was the way a book, a one-time semi-sacred object, was now open to the vagaries of chance, weather – anything, it seemed, was better than possession.


Recently I stood before some cartons, very heavy cartons. Inside were books, my books. I had come to a startling conclusion. If I left the carton unopened I would never miss the contents. But if I opened the carton and began to handle the books, an almost savage – yet sweet – swoop of memory would overtake me. And it's true – I opened a carton and there before my eyes, in my memory, paraded a whole army of associations: rooms within which I had read that book, a bed lain on or a chair under a plum tree – sitting on the tube in London. Memories of states of mind – desperate, unhappy in love, uncertain about whether I would ever be recognised as a writer: be published. Each porous page was saturated in a density of memory. I realised I was also looking at my intellectual history. It was like my brain was externalised and made into paper form. The books were who I was. Or had been.


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