Never be afraid to get dirty, but be sufficiently sure-footed to avoid the abyss of contamination.

Domestic Archaeology – Part I: Books

I left a lot of items behind in New Jersey when I moved out to California. Of these, my parents moved my books to the basement. I have made it a quasi-tradition to search my basement for certain books after returning, which on one occassion led me to a water leak in the basement and on another to a termite infestation. I suspect my parents left my books there strategically.

I went searching for Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales last night. While I didn’t find any problems with the basement, I couldn’t find it. Instead, I found a completely different set of books. Straightening out the bottom row of a bookshelf led me to Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People, which codifies common sense advice on how to avoid confrontation while getting your point across. In short, it’s a survey of tact. I read it the summer before I started college, and while I haven’t always followed the advice in the book, I’d like to think I do at times. Other books included Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 and the sequel Closing Time, two great books by one of my favorite authors in high school. There were even a couple books from an Indian religions course I took in college along with books from the Toni Morrison writing seminar I took freshman year. Finding these books triggered rememories from eras of my life I had long forgotten.


While these reminiscences were satisfying, they helped me realize there were a lot of books in addition to Chaucer’s that had gone missing. Where was Heller’s Something Happened or Vonnegut’s one book in two: Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions? For that matter, where were the remaining books from my Indian religions course like Intizar Husain’s Basti I started reading, and why did I sell my copy of Umrao Jan Ada, which is currently playing in theaters, back to the campus store?

I resolved to continue digging around the house to unearth these books. The journey would lead me to new artifacts and old memories.

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2 responses

  1. Neelam

    How did you first come across “Umrao Jan Ada?”

    November 20, 2006 at 2:50 am

  2. K

    I read it for a class on South Asian culture in college.

    November 20, 2006 at 4:10 am

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