My Most-Prized Possessions

Books Are the Things I Treasure the Most

We are now going to wrap up Writing 101: Building a Blogging Habit. I immensely enjoyed this course and I think it really helped. I looked forward to going home to sit in front of my laptop and check out the new challenges. What will happen to this blog after the course? You’ll definitely miss the crazy bookish ramblings that were inspired by the not entirely bookish challenges. But you’ll see more book reviews, which is something that I terribly miss writing. I intend to focus on my review back log in the upcoming months.

The final challenge asks us to do this:

Tell us the story of your most-prized possession.

Today’s twist: We extolled the virtues of brevity back on day five, but now, let’s jump to the other side of the spectrum and turn to longform writing. Let’s celebrate the drawn-out, slowly cooked, wide-shot narrative.

Books.

Why Books?

It’s not an entirely subconscious decision although I admit that books had this irresistible charm for me. You’ve probably read in my past posts how my childhood was with regard to books. Anyway, in high school, I hung around the high school library during my break times instead of mingling with my classmates. I liked walking around the cramped spaces between the shelves and reading the titles that jumped from the spines. I picked titles that caught my interest and read random pages. I borrowed books every week. I actually didn’t read them. Silly, I know, but I just liked having a borrowed library book in my bag.

Tales with the Librarian

I became friends with the librarian. She must have been in her mid 20s during that time when my face was encrusted with zits. She asked for my help to organize the Junior Librarians’ Club. She made sure that I will be elected among the officers. I became the treasurer. We organized field trips to libraries of different high schools and interacted with their library clubs, if any. We asked members to be student aides of our library at least once a month. We were a small but thriving club, and when our number started to grow, I decided that I wanted to be a reader. A real reader.

This decision coincided with the time I finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. What beauty! What wonder! What books should I read next to give me these visions and feelings? I stayed longer hours at the library. I went there immediately after my last class and read at a corner until our librarian told me to pack up. We would sometimes walk together until the gate. Sometimes, she would buy me a banana cue. I think I may have had a crush on her.

But that is entirely beside the point. I was happy that I was actually reading the books that I borrowed. I didn’t incur penalties for overdue books because our librarian saw that I was really reading. I am a slow reader, you see, owing to the intrusive narrator in my head, but I no longer mind that narrator now.

Borrowing Burrowed

There came a time when I didn’t want to borrow books anymore, and that’s because I wanted to own the books that I read. I grew up in a town where there was no decent book store during the late 90s. The books available were limited to romance bestsellers. I bought some titles with what money I could save from my allowance.

I wish I remember the first book that I bought with my own money, but as one book became two books and these two became the foundation of a book stack, I couldn’t suppress the happiness that I felt by merely looking at them. I always told myself, someday, I will have more. Someday, I will have a shelf. Someday, I will have a library.

Buying Blast

These fantasies were not immediately fulfilled because as a student who was entirely dependent to low-income parents, my bookish whims could not be instantly granted. When shopping malls with decent book stores started to be erected in our town, I was ecstatic. One of those book stores that opened was Book Sale. It is a secondhand book store that would thrill any book hunter. One has to dig through its bins and stacks in the hopes of finding a treasure. It really is book hunting.

Thanks to Book Sale, my meager allowance allowed me to eat at school, buy any school requirements, and buy books. At the end of one semester, I have amassed a tall stack of books. It wouldn’t stop growing. An additional stack sprouted. I couldn’t catch up with my reading, what with my studies and all that jazz, but it was a happy problem.

After I finished school and lived independently, I still continued to visit any Book Sale branch that I would come across my way. I also started buying brand new books without having to worry that my allowance wouldn’t be enough. I’ve been buying so many books that I forgot to buy clothes and shoes and, sometimes although rarely, food. There was a time when my stacks of books collapsed on me while I was sleeping. That was a problem.

Shelf Life

I was reluctant to buy a book shelf because I move around a lot. But what if my books fall all over me again? What if it becomes lethal? So I bought a book shelf. The second someday that I was telling myself when I was younger became true out of necessity.

I may need a new book shelf if I continuously hoard. I still buy books and I always will, so long as I have money and so long as I can go to a book store, but I don’t hoard as aggressively as I did before. I don’t think I should worry about another book shelf. My book shelf is serving me well. It keeps my books organized, sort of, and it houses my most prized possessions.

Biblio Blog

Without my books, there would probably be no Book Rhapsody. I’d probably be blogging about something else, that’s for sure, but thank heavens that I am a book blogger. This blog documents the lives of my books, and writing their biographies is something that I would like to do for a long, long time. That’s how much I value my possessions. I’d read them and squeeze my brains to write about them. My life may get in the way, but hey, I made it. I am still here.

I have a hundred lives waiting to be written, and hundreds more waiting to be discovered. They are all here, in my library. Yes, the final someday has become a reality. It has long become a reality. My younger self didn’t realize that my library sighed its first breath with that first book.

My Norton Short Fiction Anthologies, 3rd and 4th

Here’s a reading project that I might organize in the future

It’s the penultimate day of Writing 101, and it’s a free one.

Today is a free writing day. Write at least four-hundred words, and once you start typing, don’t stop. No self-editing, no trash-talking, and no second guessing: just go. Bonus points if you tackle an idea you’ve been playing with but think is too silly to post about.

I have always wanted to be a part of a group blog. I don’t know what’s with my obsession about this, but I just want to. I was once part of the Booker, Nobel, and Pulitzer projects. They are nice group blogs, but I left. Why? At the time I left, I felt that the members were merely cross-posting their book reviews, which is not a bad thing. It’s actually a good thing because these blogs offer rich content regarding the projects’ respective focus.

I guess I wanted something more than that, something more collaborative, like members pitching in their ideas, and writing about original stuff without having to cross-post them and link them up to the original blogs. There is a sense of collective ownership in it, and it appeals to me.

Anyway, the reading project that I’ve been thinking of for the longest time is the Norton Short Fiction project. This will be based on the Norton Anthology of Short Fiction. I’ve been stalling this because I am waiting for the eighth edition, which I imagine will be out soon. It would be nice to discuss the stories in it and have members post stuff regarding the stories, the writers, and various topics related to the art of the short story.

I don’t remember discussing this with anyone because I think it’s quite demanding. I mean, we all have our lives to live and blogs to maintain, and asking for time, which we never have a surplus of, for such a long-term project is too much. But if it’s going to be one short story a month, I think it’s going to be manageable. Besides, I’ve already listed the “core” stories, the ones that are always present in each edition, at least from the editions that I’ve managed to get a hold of. So even if one doesn’t get the eighth edition, one could still participate.

Sometimes, I wonder if I could really take on this or if I am merely being restless. I want to do so much and yet there are already so many things to do. I have a job, I have this blog, I have a reading group, and I have other interests. But this project has been playing in my head for maybe two years now, or even longer. I don’t think it will go out of my head, and it feels great that I am finally talking about its possibility.

Once that eighth edition comes out, I think I will pursue it, alone or not.

Damaged. Ugh.

So you want to hear a story told by a twelve-year-old?

I’m not going to completely follow today’s Writing 101 prompt because it asks me to rewrite a story about the decline and fall of a family into poverty using the POV of a twelve-year-old. But I’m going to write a story that’s told by a twelve-year-old, at least someone like me 18 years ago.

Today’s prompt: write [a] story in first person, told by the twelve-year-old sitting on the stoop across the street.

Today’s twist: For those of you who want an extra challenge, think about more than simply writing in first-person point of view — build this twelve-year-old as a character. Reveal at least one personality quirk, for example, either through spoken dialogue or inner monologue.

I’m super pissed off because I’m supposed to be happy because it’s raining but I got the books that I ordered from The Book Depository and when I opened the packages, half of them are damaged. I just can’t stop whining so my roommate maybe got pissed off at me but I don’t care because I have to whine and complain. So usually I take pictures of them after I open the packages but now I have to put them under big stacks of books to flatten out the folds and the warps. Some of these books are gifts to my friends and I’m super shy because they should be new but they don’t look new. I don’t know who I’m mad at. So it’s not 100% TBD’s fault. Probably the local post office is pissed off because they can’t make extra money out of the books because they are books and they cannot be taxed and they cannot hold them at the post office so they just crammed the books into whatever. Is it not possibly to handle packages with care? I pay good money for books. They look like they’re from a yard sale and it makes me feel that they are not worth the money I paid for them. I hope I can feel better soon. I will feel better if the folds and warps are flattened. I cannot do anything about the creases anymore. Yes, there are creases, my gosh. I already emailed TBD about this with matching pictures. I did not demand a refund. I just want to let them know what happened and suggested if they could please improve their packaging to lower handling damages. And oh, I only got five bookmarks instead of seven. I ordered seven books and I should have seven bookmarks. And two of them have the same design so that’s like four bookmarks only. And I already have one of the other designs so it’s like I only got three bookmarks. So there. I guess I feel better.

Scary books?

What books are you scared of?

We will not talk of horror books. I have not read a lot of such. Horror movies do not appeal to me. So do horror books.

But horror is not the scariest. Hopelessness is scary. The inability to transcend is scary. The degradation of humanity is scary. Enough of it. Let us proceed to the titular question: what books are you scared of?

I picked three books:

  • Growth of the Soil by Knut Hamsun – Because I love the novels of Hamsun. I am scared that I will not love this.
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot – Because I want to read this. I am scared that its length will be too much for my attention span.
  • The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion – Because Didion is scathing. I am scared that my heart will be battered.

You. What are you afraid of?

This is courtesy of today’s Writing 101 challenge.

We all have anxieties, worries, and fears. What are you scared of? Address one of your worst fears.

Today’s twist: Write this post in a distinct style from your own.

(Psst! Is my writing style different here?)

Where's the book?

Lost and Found Books

Writing 101 challenges me to finish a three-part series that we’ve started a couple of weeks ago. We talked about Lost Books, we talked about Found Books, and for the third and last part, we’re going to talk about Lost and Found Books.

Imagine you had a job in which you had to sift through forgotten or lost belongings. Describe a day in which you come upon something peculiar, or tell a story about something interesting you find in a pile.

On day four, you wrote about losing something. On day thirteen, you then wrote about finding something. So, today’s twist: If you’d like to continue our serial challenge, also reflect on the theme of “lost and found” more generally in this post.

Lost and Found Books could be books that are at any Lost and Found counter. Duh! Let’s give it a more personal and exciting definition, shall we? Let’s put it into the following context: you love a book so much that it hurts, you feel the need to share its power with other readers, these other readers take on your recommendation, you part with the book with a burning hope that they’ll love it. The book is “lost” in the sense that its physical presence is not within the 5-meter radius of your daily existence, but at the moment when the reader-borrowers finish it, it will be “found” because its power has just been realized by them.

So, what Lost and Found Books do I have for this year? Having the above definition in mind, I don’t have any. But I hope I will have two soon. If you recall, or if you bothered to read the previous installments, our book club is hosting a year-long “I Dare You to Read…” challenge. The books that I have put up for this are Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot and A Personal Matter by Kenzaburo Oe. These are the two that I am hoping will become Lost and Found Books, but I haven’t heard from the borrowers yet.

The truth is, I am afraid that they will merely become Lost Books. You see, the borrowers are not from anywhere nearby. Would they even bother returning the books to me? I care because these two were among my favorite reads of 2013 and I would not mind rereading them, especially Eliot. But if I did care, why did I even lend these books?

It’s because of that burning hope. So Cris and Joy, finish the darn books already. Let’s make them Lost and Found.