Monday, May 17, 2010

The Romance of Certain Old Books

I needed to check the time table in J.R.R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings over the weekend. I'm working on something that required that I know where certain members of the fellowship of the ring were at various times. Fortunately, Tolkien supplied a timeline in one of his Appendices in Volume Three: The Return of the King.
Of course in order to do this I had to dig out my copies of Lord of the Rings. It wasn't that they were put away in some box, somewhere. I just have so many paperbacks that they are stacked two deep on most of my shelves and I wasn't exactly sure where the three volumes of LotR were. I had to make my way back, past Edgar Rice Burroughs and Gardner Fox and a bunch of Doc Savage adventures, and there they were, the three Ballantine editions that I had originally purchased back in 1978. I'm not sure where I got them. It was probably at Waldenbooks or B. Dalton in either Cumberland Mall or Perimeter Mall. Those were the bookstores I visited the most back in those days.
They don't look too bad for books that are now 32 years old. In fact someone I was showing them to noted that the spines aren't even cracked, even though I've read them many times. That's true of most of my books. I rarely crack a spine, holding the book open enough that I can read it, but not far enough to crease the spine. However the pages are yellow and some of the corners are slightly bent. The colors on the covers, which are illustrations by Tolkien himself, are still bright. You can tell they've been around but they've held up well.
See, even though I got the books in 1978, I didn't actually finish reading them until 1980. Having grown up on a steady diet of the works of Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, Lin Carter, and the other sword & sorcery authors, I found the Lord of the Rings a bit slow. In fact, I think it took me three tries to get past the Shortcut to Mushrooms. I know that I carried the books with me to my aunt's house in Florida one year and didn't read them. Eventually though, I managed to get past Farmer Maggot. Once I hit Rivendell I was hooked and tore through all the way to Mordor.
Anyway, it's nice to still have my original copies. A lot of my old books were lost or given away over the years, especially the fantasy/SF stuff, which I stopped reading for a long period not long after finishing LotR. Somehow I managed to hold on to the trilogy and the Hobbit too. It's fun for me to see them whenever I come across them, sort of like meeting an old friend in some out of the way place. It's just nice that they are the same books that I held when I was 16 or so. That's one thing you won't get with a Kindle. Think I'll put them in the outer stack of books this time when they go back on the shelf. I find that I've missed them

1 comment:

Rachel said...

Fantastic! I love to hear these kinds of stories. Mostly cuz I love books (I'm a spine preserver myself) but a little bit too because I've moved so often that I hardly keep anything. I'm pretty sure I have one item in my possession today that I owned when I was 16.

I was just commenting recently on how I feel cheated when I finish a book on the Kindle. I don't mind at all while I'm reading but I sure do want the physical book when I'm done.