“Even when reading is impossible, the presence of books acquired produces such and ecstasy that the buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching toward infinity… we cherish books even if unread, their mere presence exudes comfort, their ready access reassurance.”
–A. Edward Newton
Every time I buy a book, knowing full well I do not have the time to read it now, and I add to my tsunduko both physical and electronic, it’s not that I don’t plan to read it. I really really want to. It’s just that life gets in the way.
My daughter explained to me that tsundere is ‘typically someone who acts like they don’t want something, but they really do.’ In anime or manga it’s actually a romantic style. Argues with the one they are attracted to, but inside they are all lovebirds and sighs. I am feeling a bit like this in my current relationship with books, in particular paper books. When I read – and it’s a rare event this last year, getting rarer. When I read it tends to be electronic, and non-fiction for research. It’s not that I don’t love fiction. I really really do. It’s just that I have a cold exterior to it right now because I can’t afford the time to fall back in love with it.
It’s not like I can avoid books. Getting rid of my tsunduko would be like ripping my still beating heart out of my chest. Yes, I can and have thinned my library. There are books that don’t spark joy in my mind. But there are so many more that bring a smile to my face when I take them off the shelf and hold them near. I remember what is between the covers, even if I don’t have the time to look right now. I have hope.
That, really, is what the tsunduko is really about. It’s hope. It’s old friends there anytime you need them. In the last few years, when I have been really sick, I binge read. Thanks to Amazon I could be stuck in bed, and at my fingertips have a pile of worlds to rummage through until I found the one that would allow me to open a door and slip through escaping my mundane pains and aches. Having books is a promise that someday, somehow, I will have the time to read again.
And the unread books? Are the best books in the world, so long as they remain unread. As you read them you discover that Sturgeon’s Law prevails, but before then they are the bright horizon of promise. Dawn of the day, pearled and bedewed, fresh and full of hope. You can look at the stack and think ‘I’m going to have so much fun reading you.’
It’s the dark hours of the night when you feel the stack looming over you, whispering in accusatory tones of stories left unread. Friends abandoned and lonely. Worlds that are fading from your memories and whipping away into the winds of time. You wake up from that and contemplate how much time you have left on this mortal coil to read, and you resolve to read more often, more deeply, and reduce the stack to manageable proportions. At least, until the next bookstore trip.
After I started writing this, the kids asked for a trip to the flea market and I came home with, um, about five books. In my defense, two were for gifts, two were for my First Reader (who always loves Mickey Spillane and weird Westerns in pulp paperback), and the remaining one is a handy pocket anatomy reference for artists (I also acquired a lovely vintage easel, but that’s another topic entirely. I refuse to be guilty about my art supplies. Those are mental health aids).
So how is your love-hate relationship with your to-be-read stack? Does it bring you joy, or make you feel guilty about how much you aren’t reading? Or, like me, do you vacillate between those depending on the day and your mood?