September 19, 2008 :: You complete me. Or at least my library.

When I met Mr. Rainey, I was already a habitual hoarder. I get it honestly. My father keeps a two-story barn jammed full of odds and ends--the plastic colander my mother probably threw out 20 years ago, drawers of nails jimmied free from old boards for re-use in future projects, a barco-lounger frankensteined into a giant, rolling desk chair. Used to be I had a collection of solid-core doors. An army of steel store display shelves. Every piece of paper I generated in graduate school. But then I bought a spec of a house, and had to let go (physically and psychologically) of all the things. Those things I drug around like cemet blocks tied to my ankles for years, but apparently never felt. I've gotten lazier in a lot of ways since then.

I purged. But I never, ever throw out books.

No matter how assinine they are, no matter if I get ten pages in and realize I want to lock the author and my ninth-grade English teacher in a room together until something gives...I keep them. There's probably something psychologically relevant about that too.

When Blake came to live with me in the Cabbagetown bungalow, I thought he was, smartly, moving in gradually. He came with some clothes, a guitar here and there, a box of CDs, some old vinyl, all over the course of a few months. What I didn't realize was that, apart from the clothes on his back, musical equipment and musical recordings, Blake doesn't really own anything. Except books. Those started pouring in, box after box, just recently, as if they'd been hiding in a corner of his life he'd just decided to dig out.

You can tell a lot about a boy by his reading material. As I was shelving last night, I was interpreting a life through titles. (Blake was out, at a rehearsal, so I got to judge him privately.) He's much more of a renaissance man than I. Whitman, Dylan Thomas, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Rimbaud, Faulkner. I'm more design books, gardening, Anne Lamont, Pahlanunik, Moody, Saramago, Calvino. He's all classics, I've got the arcane non-fiction--the radical interpretations of history, the legacy of salt, the dreams of Einstein. If it's depth-dark, twistedly sad, Blake owns it. If it's written 90% in footnotes or you have to turn the book upside down to read every other page, I've got it.

If a marriage is supposed to be a partnership, this one is going to be a handshake of genres. Lilting prose carried along by copious alliteration meets post-modern colloquialist, faddy banter. I'd better get reading. So should he.

We keep the books primarily in the bedroom. The photo above represents only about 1/4 of the entire collection. The rest flank the bed on the other side, spill onto mantelpieces, fall into stacks in the kitchen, and are shoved between pieces of furniture in dusty, tilting ranks.

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