Hmmm… books. Slim and slender, or bulky and old with soft yellow leaves that seem liable to crumble as you reverantly turn each page, gazing at the soft ivory sheets that have remained hidden and forgotten on old shelves in forgotten book cases in dark rooms in recondite rooms. The smell of a new book, the smell of an old, the feel of a canvas cover as you run your fingers over it, the embossed gilt letters, the heft and weight and tangibility of them all. Piles of them rising into the air, tottering and eclectic, a rainbow of different hues, matte and glossy and hard back and floppy and worn and new and obscure and obvious and popular and long, long forgotten. Classics and pulp and romance and westerns and science fiction and all the old 70’s interior design manuals. The sense of illimitable possibility as you walk past shelves and trail your fingers over their spines, a sensation akin to running a stick along the tines of a fence, wondering where you’ll stop, what you’ll pick up, what world you’ll crack open and dive into, leaving behind your own and all its cares and concerns. The late 18th century, the 31st, Africa or Japan, New York or a random basement, the lives of the rich and the poor, the driven and the mad, the futile and the bold, the desperate and the complacent, the wretched and the serene. Heroes and villains and all the shades of gray inbetween, the struggles and battles, the balancing of morals and needs, the strivings for the impossible, the defeats and downfalls, the revenges and vindications. The effervescent thrill of reading a perfectly tuned passage, to listen to the strains of the most exquisite verbal music, to bask in the genius of the world’s greatest writers. Hamlet and The Dead, The Demon Princes and Blood Meridian. Coraline and Gene Wolfe, Flaubert and Dostoevsky and Saramago and David Mitchell! To try a new author, to revist an old, to choose and pick and know that no matter how much you read, no matter how hard you strive, no matter how diligently you work at it, there will always be another, and another, and a third and an eighth and an eighty millionth. Who has read Stendhal, Mann, all of Ezra Pound or the very latest work of genius? Essays and letters and biographies and histories, revisions and decisions that a second will reverse. Books and words and metaphors and allusions and similes and facts and figures and punctuation and grammar and pages and books as objects and books as ecstatic modes of transport, as friends old and new, as aesthetic objects and anchors that hold you down in life, that keep you grounded, that serve as a bulwark when things get rough and an inspiration when you need more light, as an escape when the seas begin to rage or a light and delightful pleasure when reclining on the beach in the afternoon sun. Books books books and more more more, a neverending source of pleasure and learning and imagination and transport and belief and rewarding pursuit for the forwards coursing hounds of the mind.