I came home last night to the smell of baking brownies. The embroidered cloth I bought in Budapest was on the table, along with a stack of the best dishes and the silver epergne full of baby roses.
Dolores was in the kitchen, pulverizing a pile of avocados into fresh guacamole.
"This is a pleasant surprise," I said. "Is it by any chance a...belated birthday dinner? Hmmmm?"
"Book group," said Dolores, tossing a pinch of salt into the bowl.
"You joined a book group?"
"No, I started a book group. You think I can sit around with the sock yarn all day watching Nickelodeon? I pulled out Catullus the other night just for shits and grins and realized my subjunctives are slipping. I need stimulation, cupcake."
"Did your batteries go dead again?"
"Vulgarity is not appreciated. Now get out of the way so I can mix the sangria."
"How many people are coming?"
"Just three of us. It's only our first meeting. I put up a sign in the laundry room but this building is full of Philistines. So we got Harry, Mrs. Teitelbaum, and me."
"She's not bringing Tinkles, is she? Harry's still got that twitch in his eye."
"Of course not. How could Tinkles read the book? He's a cat."
"Oh. Of course."
I went into the bedroom to change clothes. Harry was reading quietly on the chair in the corner.
"Good book?" I asked.
"I think so," he said. "I don't understand all of it. But Dolores says if I expand my mind it will give me greater range as an actor."
"Also she said being smart is a great way to pick up guys."
"Did she really?"
"Yeah. Like, she said if it weren't for your brain being kind of big you'd get about as much action as a shy cloistered nun with a suspicious rash."
An hour later, the Coven of Intellectuals convened in the living room while I sat nearby spinning the last of Rabbitch's merino. Dolores, naturally, took the lead.
"I think we should begin by discussing our initial reactions to the work," she said. "For example, I found it to be a profoundly moving exegesis of the female mind, and a testament to the power of exploring the depths of one's own soul. Mrs. Teitelbaum, what did you think?"
"I don't understand what it had to do with airplanes," said Mrs. Teitelbaum.
Dolores rolled her eyes.
"Well," said Mrs. Teitelbaum, "it's called Fear of Flying."
"That's a metaphor," said Dolores.
"What's a metaphor?" said Harry.
"It's when a caterpillar turns into a butterfly," said Mrs. Teitelbaum.
"No," said Dolores, sucking in her breath. "That's a metamorphosis."
"Oh," said Mrs. Teitelbaum. "Pardon me for living."
"I couldn't finish it all," said Harry timidly. "And I didn't understand a lot of it. Like, what's a zipless fu–"
"Harry!" I said, jumping up from the spinning wheel, "How about we go in the other room and have a brownie and I'll read you the next chapter of My Friend Flicka?"
"Yay!" shouted Harry, rolling off the sofa.
"Is the meeting over?" asked Mrs. Teitelbaum vaguely.
"Yeah," said Dolores. "We're adjourned. Here, take some guacamole home with you. Shalom."
She shoved our neighbor out the door and pulled her coat out of the hall closet.
"Where are you off to?"
"I gotta go buy batteries."
Welcome to My Library
It's been very bookish in the apartment lately, quite aside from Dolores's attempt to establish herself as the kultur maven of Lake Park Plaza.
I've been a bibliomaniac literally for as long as I can remember. The first gifts I can recall were books. My earliest memories of my parents involve bedtime stories. And I'm told that as a toddler I used to smack our patient German Shepherd, Sandy, with The Poky Little Puppy and command, "Read!" My appetite for a good yarn is far older than my appetite for good yarn.
My personal library has grown like a bed of mushrooms since the first pile of Little Golden Books landed next to the crib. Now, I'm not one of those people who never gets rid of books once I own them. I have a strict schedule of two cullings a year, spring and fall, during which deadwood is ruthlessly removed. But I usually get rid of three or four books each time. In a given month, I usually acquire five or six. Or ten.
Get the picture?
I've never counted or catalogued them, until now. That nice Brenda Dayne, hostess of Cast On, mentioned librarything.com many episodes back and I was intrigued. I opened an account and am slowly working my way to the finish line, enjoying the process of handling every book individually. I estimate that I'm a bit less than half done.
Care to have a look at the work-in-progress? Feel free.
Tips: If you choose Display Style "D" you'll see my comments, where I record marginalia, inscriptions, or other aspects of the book. And if you search for the tag "beloved," you'll pull up the list of volumes dearest to my heart.
Also: No liquids, no cigarettes, anything before 1850 must be handled with gloves, and you will be frisked at the door before you leave. I understand Book Lust all too well.
Many, many thanks to everyone who sent birthday wishes and comments. It was good day. I am happy to be alive. And I am so happy you are all out there.