My Life in Books

January 21, 2012

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Over a year ago, I gave away all my CDs to friends; I had already copied the music to my computer and didn’t want the physical objects taking up space and collecting dust anymore. So did I listen to music less frequently after that? Nope. Way more, in fact, and more often, via Pandora and Rdio on Sonos. (Right now I’m listening to my Smiths station: “Sixteen, clumsy and shy, I went to London and I…” Anyone?)

Somehow, though, I felt differently about giving away my books. I’d donate the new fiction that I’d been lured into buying, but nothing from The Shelves, which housed the books that had survived the purges and the re-locations of the past twenty-plus years.

But, this time, I’m pretty sure that I’m going to get rid of all of my books. I realize that for some people this is like saying that I’m pretty sure I’m going to leave my kids in an Arby’s parking lot. But I just don’t think I need the physical objects anymore (the books, that is, not the kids. I’m going to hang on to the kids for a while). The chances of me sitting down to page through The Autobiography of Malcolm X at this point in my life are, uh, slim. But I still remember the story and the impact it had on me.

The books that have survived this long have (cheese alert) become a part of me. And now I can send them out into the world to, hopefully, impact someone else. Bye-bye, books! (I’m now picturing each book carrying a little hobo-style stick with a bandana at the end. Why do I do stuff like that?)

But first, if you’ll bear with me, a few goodbyes.

Goodbye, Don DeLillo’s White Noise. I read you on the subway in New York and laughed out loud and didn’t care at all (no one else cared, either — yay, New York!). I made Clare Bundy Haygood read you  — or was it the other way around? — and then we referred to the “airborne toxic event” and “the point of Babette” in daily conversation, cracking ourselves up.

Goodbye, Leviathan, The Music of Chance, and all the other Paul Auster books I read during my Postmodern Existential Phase. I seriously could not have been postmodern or existential without you. Oh, those were heady days!

Goodbye, Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer. You came at exactly the right time, when I wanted to leave postmodern behind and enter gritty realism, you know? I read you all in one day and night, sitting in my big armchair on my apartment on West 95th Street, after which I sat, stunned.

Goodbye, Of Woman Born, by Adrienne Rich. Dog-eared and yellowed, you survived so many book purges. You are a symbol of my life at Vassar College all those years ago. Having transferred from a more conservative, Southern school, I could hardly believe the co-ed bathrooms, lesbian clubs, and woman power you showed me. (It wasn’t all about that stuff — we also drank tons of beer and danced to Soul II Soul and edited movies on real film and drove to New York to eat Indian food and talked and talked and talked… I loved every minute of it.)

Goodbye, Casino, by Nicholas Pileggi. The book on which Martin Scorsese’s film was based is not a favorite of mine per se, but it has survived the years due to the personal inscription to me from Nick Pileggi: “To Lise, who always remembered the cards at the Drake.” Explanation: This was when I worked for Marty and he and Nick needed a space where they could transform the story to movie scenes, via index cards (Marty is super old school) so I rented a room at the Drake Hotel, across from our office in midtown. I was responsible for the cards, which by the end, wound around the room like a long Candyland path. So, if you liked that movie, you’re welcome; I could have really messed that shit up.

Goodbye, Angela’s Ashes, by Frank McCourt. Man, you were a freakin’ downer, I gotta be honest. Yowsa. But you spurred my interest (and the world’s) in memoir, and that love has stayed with me since then. (I am, in fact, trying to write a memoir, which I suspect is something I’ll be saying for the next twenty years.)

Goodbye, Of Truth and Beauty, by Ann Patchett. Goodbye, What Is the What?, by Dave Eggers. Goodbye, The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien. You made me think about war in terms of the individual people involved. I don’t think I had done that before.

Goodbye, American Films of the 1970s, by Peter Lev. You provided inspiration for the class of the same name that I taught at Suffolk University in Boston. We watched Easy Rider, Badlands, Chinatown — ahhh! So good! Must watch one soon.

And, finally, goodbye, Raising Your Spirited Child, by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. Actually, maybe I’ll keep that one. A-hem.

The books are packed now, and I’d be lying if I said I’m not just a little sad. I think I’ll hold on to the boxes for a couple of days. It’s not that I think I will change my mind. I’m just thinking that one of you might call and ask if you can pick them up.


  • Meganne

    Great memories in this post. You are making a bold move…and I admire it. (p.s. Can I have Truth & Beauty?)

  • Lcarrigg

    I think it might be yours! Will return. Thanks for reading and tweeting. :)

  • Darla

    You are insane. Send them all to me.

  • Lcarrigg

    Do you really want me to? Because I will!

  • Jengargi

    I would love to have them…but that would involve postage to Singapore! I loved Angela’s Ashes as well, you gave me some good ideas for my next book-great post!

  • Jesica Davis

    This is great. I’ve done this many times. At this point, though, most of my books are the keepers. Very few fiction, a lot of books on spirituality, nature, creativity, religion and various forms of divination. In fact, it was by paring down the books that I had to admit that I’m a mystic oracle who should write and live in nature. Those were the books I went back to again and again and again. Everything else could go. Except for some film books, have held on to a few choice selections.n

  • Lcarrigg

    After all my big talk I may not be ready. I was thinking that maybe I should pick ten books to keep. I think that would make me feel better. We actually don’t have any book shelves in our new house, which I didn’t notice until we moved in. That’s what started this whole business — I went to unpack the boxes and there was nowhere to put them. Then I realized that I hadn’t looked at most of them in the six years they had been on the shelves in our old house. We’ll see.u00a0

  • Parkerism

    Have Jane Mount paint “your bookshelf” so you can keep these treasures with you! I have one of her pieces –

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