Mind the Ghosts

09/03/2010

Measured in certain "units:" priceless

Urgency Day 350

500 Things Items 143-151: Set of 9 Books (not shown)

  • History: Details can’t be revealed because they are to be a present
  • Value: The bindings match and have made a lovely addition to my shelves
  • Parting Pain: None– I love the eventual recipient
  • Un-possessing: Christmas gift

Do you believe in ghosts?

Even existing outside of a purely doctrinal construct, I do.

What happens to discarded books? I have dozens and dozens awaiting their eventual fates. Will they go directly to good homes? Will they linger on used-bookstore shelves or in the sorting space of our local library in anticipation of the Friends of the Library book sale? Right now, they are in actual Limbo piled on my basement floor.

One book expressed its discomfort last night.

I’m reading Her Fearful Symmetry, Audrey Niffenegger’s follow-up novel to The Time-traveler’s Wife. I adored Time-traveler’s Wife— the book NOT the movie– and it became something of a phenomenon in our house: widely recommended and even earning a featured role in the infamous Sean Turns Forty! video gift. I remember when Fearful Symmetry came out being very excited to read it. Until I read the reviews.

Every author I know personally—and you two know who you are—is groaning right now. And they should be.

I count on book reviews to do several things for me: First of course, give me a sense of whether I should add yet another book to the toppling tower on my bedside table, but second and more importantly, help determine whether I am constitutionally capable of reading the reviewed book. Ask John Gilstrap—almost-family member and well-known author of popular action thrillers– how many of his books I have actually read. That would be zero. Why? In a word: wimp. As in, I am one.

So when the review of Her Fearful Symmetry revealed that it is a ghost story, I sighed and chose to read something else. (What did I read instead? I wish I had an index of all the books I’ve ever read such as the comprehensive one my sister has kept since she was a teenager, so I could pinpoint exactly what I read instead. Alas, not all the family’s organizational genius went to me.)

But recently, I was at the public library picking up another bushel of college admissions guides, when I noticed Her Fearful Symmetry. Why not? I thought. I really have gotten tougher since I’ve watched Battlestar Galactica (just to repeat: NEW not 1970s version). I can handle a few ghosts and ignore a less than glowing review. Why not?

Soooo, cut to the chase. I am really enjoying Fearful Symmetry. And you would think that was my point.

Um, no.

Last night, lying in bed with a non-Earl related storm howling outside and reading this spooky story, I was reminded of another ghost story I have enjoyed. In preparation for my family’s trip to Scotland in 1996, I bought Sam a cute picture book called The Ghosts’ Trip to Loch Ness by Jacques Duquennoy. Four little ghosts decide to make a journey to Loch Ness to see the famed monster, and much Highland fun ensues. It’s such a delightful story, and after Sam actually spotted Nessie on our trip (and we have the official Certificate to prove it), quite the requested bedtime tale.

Something about the Niffenegger book and the rattling windows and the vagaries of firing synapses caused me to leave my comfy bed last night to locate this little ghost story. In my basement. On a dark and stormy night.

The hundreds of books I identified way back in July for sale and donation have not been moved since. Sam’s band practices around them, the guys who bought Asteroids stepped over them, and the cat has graciously ignored them in her quest to eat everything she possibly can. But I know, even if the piles of books had been disturbed in the ensuing months, I never did and never would include The Ghosts’ Trip to Loch Ness for un-possessing.

Why, then, was This One Book I went downstairs to find, of all our books, lying near the pile of discards? Not on its appropriate shelf. Not open as if recently consulted. Just nearby, but not safely stored.

Ghosts. That’s why.

Appearances of supernatural phenomena are thought to have many perfectly reasonable explanations and, on certain cable “reality” shows, are even “scientifically” measured in “units.” Mostly, I think it all has to do with Regret. I try so very very hard these days not to linger on regret. It takes a lot of energy– trying so hard– energy that can probably be measured in units: Regret units. Finding this little ghost story lying inexplicably on my basement floor was a gentle if somewhat mysterious reminder:

Keep the memories; lose the stuff.

And the regret.


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2 Responses to “Mind the Ghosts”

  1. Katherine Says:

    good one, Suz.

  2. boysgonewild Says:

    That’s a pretty good ghost story.


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