I loved my books so much that many years ago, I had a carpenter in Wisconsin build me 7 maple bookcases that fitted together to fill in the wall spaces in my office. And he shipped them out to me, piece by piece, each one at the maximal UPS allowance for dimension and weight. They came in makeshift containers cobbled together from other boxes, many pieces of heavy cardboard all duct-taped together. A couple got damaged in the process, but I stopped noticing the dents a long time ago. It was satisfying having a wall of books, an external life seen and measured: it was more than the Harvard Classics five-foot shelf of books.
I have three feet less today, the books dispersed all over the United States to places with evocative names like Stillwater, New York. The gaps did not last long — I just keep shifting books from hidden places out into the open. The Henry James are now all together, somewhere near John Marquand and Elizabeth Bowen, Emerson and Montaigne.
Where Henry James was, thousands of yards of yarn, frogged, washed, rewound. Along with recycling books, I am recycling sweaters. These are “meanwhile” activities, because I don’t know what else to do, because I must do something, because I must have the illusion of motion. But it is what a hamster on a wheel might say: “I’m making progress.”
The Therapist wonders who I am. I have tried out different identities all my life, I wouldn’t know “who I am” to save my life. What if the life you live is nothing more than that posed studio picture, a faded anniversary portrait on a bare wall in an abandoned house?