25 February 2012


Bonfire Books

The book blogosphere threw a virtual book burning and I wasn't invited. =(

But in all fairness, I've been so out of the loop these days that they could have hired a marching band to deliver the invitation to my door and I still probably wouldn't have noticed.

I refer of course to last Tuesday's blog party at The Broke and the Bookish, in which over 200 people linked up their lists of Top Ten Books to Save from a Disaster. (How do I miss these things???)

It seems a little silly to prepare a full Tenner when I'm closer to next Tuesday's party than to this last one, but my blogging muse insists on getting in on the fun. So here's a Three-Legged List for you all, complete with out-of-focus photos of the books that beat the fire . . .

3 Books from My Library
That I'd Rescue from a Fire

Divine Mercy in My Soul by St. Faustina Kowalska

We are living in a time when the loss of physical books is not as big a deal as it was in the Middle Ages (or in eras yet older). No matter how many "hard" copies of a text are destroyed, as long as a single "soft" copy remains, we're all good. A book would have to be a really old manuscript or rare edition for its loss to be a real blow.

Divine Mercy in My Soul is the faithfully kept diary of St. Faustina Kowalska, who filled up six notebooks over several years. (There would have been more, had she not destroyed one of them, at the command of an entity claiming to be an angel. Which is kind of relevant to this issue even if you don't believe in angels . . . or demons.) I presume the actual notebooks are somewhere safe and fireproof in Poland. Their content, translated into numerous languages, have been spread all over the world.

A religious book is like a rosary. Its "body" doesn't matter as much as its "spirit"--and if I lost this particular book or my current rosary, I could always get another one and keep going without breaking my stride. And yet there is something "religious but not spiritual"--and therefore, valuable--in the feel of familiar friends and the retracing of worn paths. I have used this particularly book in prayer and meditation since my grandmother bought it for me in 2003, and I would feel its loss keenly if anything ever happened to it.

Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton

Speaking of "hard" copies, I have one that's also a manuscript. Born of my frustration with whomever were borrowing the copies of G.K. Chesterton's Orthdoxy from the uni library and the city's public library, and keeping them overdue for months, my very, very special "edition" of the same was copied out in a little under six weeks, right after I finally got a friend at one library to intercept the book for me at Returns.

That's right: I literally wrote the whole thing. Unless there is a copy of Orthodoxy somewhere that Chesterton himself spilled some ale on while arguing vehemently with Hilaire Belloc, I don't think you could find another that beats mine in the uniqueness department. Saved from a fire? There's no question!

Only after I had left uni behind me, with no hope of ever seeing it again, did I learn I may have copied the wrong Chesterton book. Orthodoxy is Orthodoxy, no matter where you find it, but there are early editions of The Everlasting Man that are significantly different from the revised version we have now. I was lucky enough to read a very old Everlasting Man in my uni library, and unlucky enough to realise it only after I was an ocean away and unable to look up what happened to be my favourite passage in the whole book. (It just figures that Chesterton would take out my favourite part, aye?)

Young Unicorns by Madeleine L'Engle

This is the most random, arbitrary choice of the bunch because Young Unicorns isn't a huge favourite of mine or even my favourite Madeleine L'Engle novel. I just really, really like the copy I happen to have because of its cover art.

And it's probably not even great cover art. =P I just love the atmosphere.

The various browns, the accents of faded turquoise, the spotty, "aged" background, the characters' body language and their hair blowing in the wind, even the font . . . There's little about this cover that doesn't work for me. (And in case you're wondering what that "little" is, it's the tomato red colour used for the author's name.)

There are many other titles from Dell Publishing that got this sort of cover treatment back in the 1970s and 1980s. I have several more that I was lucky to find when I started my little library over a decade later. If I had done a full Tenner, all of those old editions would have been photographed in a line up and named as special enough to save from the flames.

Image Source: The Miracle of Fanjeaux by Pedro Berruguete


Jenny said...

Well, better late than never and all that. Your books definitely are the most unique from what I saw last Tuesday.

love the girls said...

"3 Books from My Library
That I'd Rescue from a Fire"

I'm rather perplexed, why not just buy another copy at the local bookstore?

If I was to list books I would risk getting scorched over they would at the least have to be almost impossible to get another copy of.

love the girls said...

Adding on, I can understand the sentimental value of the one. Or the Orthodoxy one not being anywhere to be found. But the the Young Unicorn?

Belfry Bat said...

LTG, I think it's an allusion to The Name of the Rose

Enbrethiliel said...


Jenny -- Thanks! The Orthodoxy alone makes this list, I think. ;-)

LTG -- It's not supposed to be practical. =P The scenario has the appeal of those "desert island" questions which make you narrow your cluttered existence down to the "essentials."

As for The Young Unicorns, I happen to have a really old copy with cover art that I'm irrationally in love with. If I had to buy another copy, it would have the updated cover, which I really don't like. Of these three books, it actually is the one "almost impossible to get another copy of."

(Incidentally, all this has inspired me to prepare a post on "vintage" covers that I'm lucky enough to own.)

Bat -- You give me so much credit! I'm afraid that I'm not of the calibre of those who make allusions to The Name of the Rose. =/

Bob Wallace said...

You might want to try Project Gutenberg and just print the stuff out instead of copying it by hand.

Enbrethiliel said...


The point was to copy it out by hand. =P

When I was absorbed in the project, people asked me why I didn't just scan the book in some computer shop, and I gave them the same answer. LOL!