The saddest fact of my life is that I live in a county without a bookstore. True, we have a place that specializes in antique books, but particular editions of Gone With the Wind or bejeweled Victorian Jewish prayer books don’t fill the craving I get for the literary arts.
I can drive 45 minutes north, up Blood Mtn and over the Appalachian Trail, to the amazing Book Nook in Blairsville. A small store owned by really amazing people, it carries titles that always tempt me and I generally leave with a small handful of new books. They have an amazing selection and are always willing to order books, even for an unrepentant heretic like me. Not something I can say for Barnes and Noble.
Beyond that, my options are limited. Barnes and Noble, also 45 minutes away in Cumming, GA (beat that, Intercourse, PA!), is a huge warehouse. Though I love visiting, strolling the aisles looking at titles and browsing at random, their selection generally sucks. It is a sea of thoughtless stocking. No care is given to the selection. The Pagan section is a travesty and I generally only visit that aisle to sigh in exasperation. Yet they do carry SageWoman, Witches & Pagans, and sometimes Pentacle magazine. I used to get my beloved PanGaia there, whose loss I still mourn.
Yes, I know Kindle is ecologically, economically and spatially more viable. I don’t care. Call me a troglodyte, a Luddite, a Romantic, nostalgic or just plain stubborn. I am madly, passionately in love with books. They are physical entities that hold their own energy. Even when I have no time to read, just touching a Jane Austen, Bernard Cornwell or Byron Herbert Reece volume stirs my soul. Some of my books, dog-eared with notes in the margins, have been read so may times that I swear they are imprinted with my energy and I have a special relationship to that particular volume that outweighs my connection to any other copy of that particular book.
I have a bible my mother gave me. When I became a young woman, maybe 13 or 14, my mother let me pick out the bible I wanted. As a devout child it was the single most amazing thing my often-disconnected mother ever did for this lifelong bibliophile. I researched the different translations and editions of the bible and picked out the Scofield KJV study bible as my own. Long before I converted and had the experience of crafting a BoS and building an altar, this was the first profound instance of having my very own specialized religious experience. It has a note from her in the front and it contains a sweetness deeply in contrast with it’s contents. It was this bible I poured over, filled with bookmarks and eventually set aside as both irrelevant and insulting to my religious life.
The power of a book as a physical object cannot be underestimated. A book can change the course of your life. It is an unchanging bulwark. In the past 12 years the Internet Sacred Text Archive has changed, as has Witchvox and BeliefNet. Books on e-readers are at the whim of those who control the technology, but a physical book changes you while remaining unchanged itself. How many physical objects can you think of that contain such power?
There were days when I was poor enough to consider ground beef a luxury, but I felt rich because I lived near a great bookstore. I will admit to more than once spending more on books than on groceries. I can remember days where I lived on coffee so I could make sure I had cash to buy the latest Bernard Cornwell novel. I miss having time to read, but even more I miss having a local bookstore. I spent more on books precisely because I had access to physical books for sale.
M’Colleague’s insightful, well-researched look at how the demise of Borders affects Pagan publishers hits me pretty hard this morning. My first love is the written word. I feel as if my love is wounded and I know not how to staunch the blood.