Mliae has initiated the Recycled Book Reading Challenge, a year-long challenge to read recycled books. What a great idea to get people to read books they may otherwise miss. Despite all of the publishing challenges these days, according to this article in Geek Wire,the number of titles published by traditional means annually has continued to increase. An avid reader with favorite authors will tend to work to keep up with new works. But what of all those books that have gone before? What about the library full of books, and the recycled books available in dusty used book stores? We are a consumer based society always looking for the new. I appreciate this challenge for promoting a different attitude about reading.
Independent and used bookstores struggle these days. Go hunt the archives full of fragrant yellowed pages. Or a garage sale. Or, like me, the exchange libraries at hostels. Reading old used books opens up new horizons. An author long dead can bring depth and history to an idea we think is new and revolutionary.
I found Balthazar, by Lawrence Durrell on a bookshelf in the hostel where I am staying in a small town in Colombia. I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I’m struck with the insight and sensitivity the author brings to the ideas of diverse sexual appetites and longings. Limited by contemporary values, an author 50 years ago needed to be nuanced about their approach to “sensitive topics.” The language used can feel occasionally arch, but there is a subtlety and tenderness with an approach that is less direct. Durrell claimed “three literary Uncles—his publisher T.S. Eliot, the poet George Seferis, and Henry Miller. He found a copy of Tropic of Cancer that had been left behind in a public lavatory. He said the book shook him “from stem to stern.” He became lifelong friends with Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin. These influences show, and remind me to revisit Miller and Nin.
Now it is off to find a cafe and enjoy Balthazar.