The pages of the book flutter lightly in half and its threaded spine crackles delightedly in my hands, like a greeting from an old friend. As its yellowing pages blink rapidly through my fingers, the blurred words tell of Darcy and times left untouched by those confined to the twenty-first century.
I can nearly hear the quiet whispers of Jane Austen’s voice as her pen flies frantically across a stained manuscript, opening a window in which I can see, smell and experience her world. Her soft hum pleads for me to dive deep into the depths of this tale’s heart: a pearl locked tight between the jaws of a clam, waiting patiently to give it away for someone else to keep and enjoy.
If the reader accepts the story’s gift, then we will carry away new knowledge and insights which we will in turn practice in his own world. Would I accept the gift; would I want to let this novel impact my life for better or worse? I would, but I’ve read this one before.
I gently close the book, and Austen’s voice soon fades into the dust that is visible in the warm light streaming through the book shop window. The novel joins its mates on the charismatically worn shelf where it waits in slumber for a new pilgrim to take on its precious venture.
Rows of books, held in multitudes, are on the verge of overwhelming me with their hushed sighs of strife, love and trials. Each one holds a unique combination of conflict, setting and perspective.
Some of them contain stories that tell of exhausting perseverance. These are the stories that bring a reader hope and courage to go on another day when they feel the weight of the world has grown too heavy upon their shoulders.
Others may exist so that we can learn from the appalling human mistakes that have been made in history, so that they are never repeated again. My finger trails across the sway back spines as I drift over the hardwood floor between the shelves, pausing regularly to study an enticing title.
It is the literature bound protectively between the covers of these books that give us the motivation to seek out our own adventures and believe in the love and beauty that my not exist in our current lives.
Without these pathways to lead us away from our own appointments, whatever would we learn of Shakespearean time and mind set? How else could we empathize with the soldiers of WWI but for reading their recorded thoughts and feelings so that they rise in our own emotions?
While we follow the character through the trail of thoughts and conflicts they blaze, we mature as we take part in the challenges of their journeys.
Finally, I choose a few books at random, and easy myself into a comfortable chair. The Book Man’s famous cat pads past, allowing me to stroke his faded caramel head for a minute or two before he ambles on, with his tail held proudly in an air of indifference.
Then I lean back and allow myself to be transported up, up and away with Peter Pan’s band of lost boys to Treasure Island on the back of a hippogriff, where we’ll wait to catch a glimpse of Moby-Dick’s plume of ocean spray, and gigantic sized tail rising above the horizon in a fond wave goodbye. Wherever the piece of literature decides to take me, I will go willingly, allowing myself to be tugged along by its alluring words that caress and mold my ever changing being.