Thursday, February 18, 2021

You, as the Most Pestiferous of All Your Creations

 Three books survive the various moves during your life to date, a barmitzva gift from a forgotten donor, a Christmas gift from your sister, and yet another gift from her in response to her asking your wish for a birthday present.

The earliest of these, a Rand-McNally Atlas of the world, bears an inscription from 1941. Although uninscribed, the second book, an enormous doorstopper collection of novels, sketches, and observations from Mark Twain, dates from your thirteenth year, and the last, a collections of poems and translations by Ezra Pound,  dates from the early 1950s.

Since you came into possession of these books, you moved from locations in Los Angeles, New Jersey, Masachussets, Rhode Island, and Florida. The circumstances of your last move, from 652 Hot Springs Road in that portion of Santa Barbara known as Montecito, to your present location, caused you to select one hundred titles from the five- to six-thousand accumulated by you and your late wife.

You've not made a true inventory, but your current book population exceeds fifteen hundred, a suggestion of how books come and go in your life but also the near miracle that you'd have the three survivors of your early years.

Let's get the Rand-McNally Atlas out of the way. Over the early years of your possession, you read it as you would a novel, using places, settings, and things you promised yourself to visit as focal points. The main value of the book now is sentimental. A gift from your beloved sister. Her handwritten inscription. If and when a time comes when you once again divest yourself of your books, you'll offer it to either of your nieces, convinced they'll accept it more to humor you than any wish to have this wannabe relic. Same kind of situation where your youngest niece and her husband took Rocky, your sister's dog, after your sister's death.

The other two books define your interests, your goals, large chunks of your eduction and attitudes; they made and continue to make contributions to your education, your perceptions of the worlds inside you and those in which you are a visitor. They represent what you wish to be, attempt to be, and use as a scale of equivalency against which you measure your progress as a person and a writer. 

Against your memories of times where your behavior seems now to have lacked such qualities as restraint, humility, consideration, and empathy, your awareness of the immense talents and visions of Twain and Pound humbld you, led you toward paths of self-improvement and understanding. At no time have you considered yourself their equals.

Into this acquisition of books, role models, and influences, you added the work and careers of F. Scott Fitzgerald, John O'Hara, and Willa Cather, from which point you went on to find and become influenced by two flesh-and-blood mentors, the writer Rachel Maddux, and the actor Virginia Gilmore.

You were then officially a work in progress.

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