When a writer moves—which I’ve just done—a whole heck of a lot of books move with her.
Boxes and boxes of them, the first ones carefully alphabetized and labeled, and the last ones thrown into the same boxes with miscellaneous precious seashells, kitchen gadgets, and CDs, wrapped up in bed linens and towels in the fight against the deadline to get one’s house unpacked and ready to be lived in by someone else.
Those boxes of books—a weighty, three-dimensional representation of who I am—are now all stacked up in one of the outbuildings on my fiancé’s Wine Country farm.
Some of the books are ones I’ve written. But most of them are books I’ve read and loved—or haven’t read yet but want to. They’re books that other writers have signed for me (quite a few of them at Kepler’s!). They’re the books I’ve used for my research in writing historical novels.
There are about five big boxes—boxes I’m just itching to unpack—filled with reference books about 18th century Italy. These were the doors that opened my eyes and heart to the world of the foundling home in Venice where the young priest, Antonio Vivaldi of “Four Seasons” fame, served as music master and resident composer: the world of my 2007 novel from HarperCollins, Vivaldi’s Virgins.
There’s the slightly smaller but no less intriguing collection of books that empowered the research for my forthcoming novel (HarperTeen: April 2010), A Golden Web. Books about cross-dressing in medieval Europe, manuals for manuscript illumination and women healers, studies of 14th century medical practice, and lushly illustrated Books of Hours.
Some of the books were too precious to pack: the ones I’m using to research my current novel, set, again, in the world of music, this time in 18th century Vienna. I couldn’t risk having any one of these go astray.
My fiancé is also a lover of words (as well as a professional violist and vigneron). The very first piece of my furniture I found a place for inside his house was my dictionary stand. He exulted right alongside of me at the beauty of having it there, where—at any given moment—either one of us could go look something up.
Yes, I love Google and use it all the time. But there’s no replacement for the physical evocation of all those words, all that language, waiting for us, beckoning us, buoying us up above the tumultuous waves of our storm-tossed lives.