By Barb Arland-Fye
I admit to an undying love for books, hardcover and paperback: novels, biographies, histories, poetry, Bibles, textbooks, children’s books, yearbooks … the list goes on.
When a fellow parishioner arrived at my house with the bookcase he built for our family, I felt truly blessed. Last weekend, the shelves were quickly filled with books — some dating back before my marriage to Steve 26-1/2 years ago.
Friends, acquaintances and colleagues have their Kindles, iPads, tablets and other electronic readers. I have books with paper pages, some dog-eared, which carry that lingering library scent.
Shelving children’s books evoked fond memories of reading to one or the other of my two sons, Colin and Patrick, when they were young children sitting close beside me in the recliner or on the couch.
“Exodus,” another favorite, by Leon Uris, long ago lost its book jacket and is frayed at the edges. With fondness, I remember my son Colin as a young teenager paging through the epic novel searching for references to Moses because, of course, the book’s title takes its name from the Old Testament. The novel tells the story of Jews in the 1940s striving to reclaim Israel as a homeland. Colin, whose autistic mind compelled him to read everything he could get his hands on that even hinted of words from the Bible, latched on to this Exodus.
Three of veterinarian James Herriot’s wonderful stories of animals and people: “All Creatures Great and Small,’’ “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” and “Every Living Thing,” conjured up scenes of me and my younger son, Patrick, snuggling up on the couch and being carried away into the Yorkshire dales.
“The Word of God,” a paperback of the New Testament, recalls the year leading up to our marriage, when Steve participated in Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) at St. Patrick’s Church in Clinton.
Thomas Merton’s autobiography, “The Seven Storey Mountain,” made for great Lenten reading one year after I joined The Catholic Messenger and wanted to know about this monk who inspired and influenced so many Catholics and non-Catholics.
With these books, I don’t have to turn on an electronic device or scroll down to get to the next page. If you think I’m getting too nostalgic, don’t forget that some of these devices offer the sound of turning pages or the ringing of the dial phones that existed in my childhood. Heck, even vinyl records are coming back.
As I filled shelves and rearranged the books, a Twilight Zone episode came to mind. “Time Enough at Last,” which Rod Serling wrote in 1959 (when I was a year old), told the story of bank teller Henry Bemis who loved to read and would sneak into the bank vault over lunch break to read.
One day while he’s in the safe confines of the vault, a nuclear war destroys the world, leaving little behind but Mr. Bemis. He contemplates suicide before he sees a still-intact library. Thrilled, he begins to organize books for years to come. But just as he settles down to read, his glasses fall off and smash to the ground.
Watching this show, I felt his pain!
Who knows what the future holds for hardback and paperback books, but I take great comfort in knowing that calligrapher Donald Jackson, senior scribe to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s Crown Office, has completed a 10-year masterpiece for St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minn.: the illuminated St. John’s Bible.