I went to the library on Saturday. The lady who gave me my new card said: “Don’t disappear again” and I promised: “Only into the books.”
It’s a magical thing, a library card in a library. What else gives us normals the power to acceptably take something you would usually have to pay for?* It’s akin to the feeling you get when someone has left some lovely old chairs or a box of surplus apples outside their gate with a sign saying “Please take.” As I left with my three books, I had to make myself walk at a normal pace: I felt as if someone would surely stop me.
It’s a small library. I instinctively turned towards the stairs, then remembered that I am a grownup now and my books aren’t up there, filling the carriages of a wooden train. That’s OK, I can go there if I like. But I think I know what I’m going to do first. I think I’m going to read every book in the library.
The library in my town is right opposite my house, and the magical thing is this: freaks and weirdos go to the library, so pyjamas is alright. Every book in the library, as easily as if I’d started the same plan on my own bookcases.
Can you imagine how painful this will be? There are a lot of awful books in the world and I’m sure a provincial, under-funded (is there any other kind?) council library holds a fair portion of them. My mind is recoiling from the idea as I type. Can I exclude large print? What about the romance novels? A Compendium of Agricultural Techniques in Western Central Asia?
It will be good for me. Part of being a writer is reading terrible writing, in order to not write terrible writing oneself. This will be a grand exercise for writer me, and a trial by ordeal for reader me. It’s also a punishment: I am guilty of doing things that I like doing and neglecting things I don’t. How can I become a better writer if I write the same way all the time?
* The answer is vouchers. I favour Tesco Clubcard vouchers myself. However, these are not redeemable for just anything I choose from the shelves. Supermarket vouchers are like someone saying you can take out any book you like as long as it’s this one about data base architecture from 1992.