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.