June 16, 2010

Happy Bloomsday/It's All About Me!

Leopold Bloom is the fictional protagonist and antihero of James Joyce's Ulysses. His peregrinations and encounters in Dublin on 16 June 1904 mirror, on a more mundane and intimate scale, those of Ulysses/Odysseus in The Odyssey. Bloom is introduced to the reader as a man of appetites:

Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods' roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.

The above is taken from Wikipedia, talking about one of The Greatest Stories Ever Written.

Full disclaimer here: while I used to be an avid reader (then a bookbinder), I hardly read at all these days. My husband studied literature and poetry, and it's truly his contributions to the family bookshelves that make us seem so clever. Where am I going with this you ask?

It's one of those rambly-bambly days where I start thinking of one thing (James Joyce) and then my mind wanders off into others. This is probably going to end up as one of those posts where people scratch their heads and say, "So, everybody's a blogger now?". But I digress even further. I was looking for our copy to post as the Happy Bloomsday! picture, but I couldn't find it.

When I look through all of our books, it occurs to me that these books that we have—from the guilty pleasures (mine) to the classic works—all make up a tiny, tiny portion of who we've become. Do others consider this sentiment as well? In life, we're sort of jumping from book-to-book, author-to-author, subject-to-subject, etc. and here I am now, with a patchwork piece of a bookshelf. Am I putting too much into this?

The above picture isn't a posey-picture. I just took a quick snapshot and to look at it, you can see all of our interests combined in a 3 inch photo. Obviously there's more to us, but I know that when I look at others' pictures of their homes—could be strangers on blogs or backgrounds of snapshots—I go right to their bookshelves. I strain my eyes and try and make out the titles. Who are they? What do they like? Am I shallow here? With blogs today it's hard, because there's something called "styling", where the picture is basically posed and the people living in the posed pictures seem oh-so-fabulous. Granted, I took liberties—I didn't take a snapshot of the poetry shelves or the fiction shelves or even the self-help. This shot is mostly art books of sorts, but each book tells a (not-so-obvious) story.

The book on the top left (horizontal) was a book of Mechanical Drawings owned by my Grandfather (a machinist). I see a title called, The Strip—a beautiful photography book about a gas station-lined highway in Coralville, Iowa (by my husband's hometown of Iowa City). I see my friend Margaret's book, published after her death. The blank book (no title) is one of my most cherished possessions; it's a blank book that I hand-bound for our wedding day. Our friends and family wrote amazing things to us in their own handwriting, which we can keep and pass on to our daughter. There's a book on Songwriting that's my husband's. He's an amazing musician—a true talent with a poet's soul. Hatch Show Print was the first print shop that truly inspired me and made me want to learn letterpress. The book next to it is by Peter Koch—printed at his shop where I took my love of Hatch and learned to print beautifully. Everybody loves knives, right? And if you read the book to the right, you can learn how to maintain them (Sharpening is a dry but fascinating text on hand-sharpening your tools; important for bookbinding!). Next mention is my husband's Eggleston book. I first knew about his work through the Big Star album cover. A great record and a big influence for so many musicians. Last glance, I'm wandering on to the Art book and am thinking of a photograph of Robert Bechtle's famous painting (one of) that's in it. You know—the one with the station wagon? Now that I write this I am amused to see that now I too live in Alameda, California. And I'm hopeful that my own personal odyssey may just come together. xo Victoria

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