Sunday, May 27, 2007
Nowhere in any biology class, no matter how advanced, no matter how graphic and lurid, did the instructor discuss how books reproduce. In fact, I didn’t even realize that they did reproduce until I recently had to pack them all for our move to Oregon. Good grief! Where did they all come from? Did I really purchase all of them? If so, when did I become a millionaire? Or, oh my gosh, did I steal them? Did I go to friends’ homes and while they were in the kitchen busily preparing onion soup dip sneak off to their libraries and steal books? Did I tuck them into my jeans? Under my sweater? Did friends whisper behind my back that I had gotten so chunky and lumpy?
Since I do not believe I am either a millionaire (actually, I’m pretty sure about that one) or a kleptomaniac, the only logical, scientific conclusion is that books reproduce. Oh, sure, books all look so innocent and chaste lined up back-to-back belly-to-belly in their bookcases. But what happens when the lights are out and they are alone? Well, I maintain there’s a whole lot of canoodling and hanky-panky going on. With Henry Miller, D. H. Lawrence and the Kama Sutra in their neighborhhood, I’m guessing the sex is pretty hot and steamy. The moment the sun starts to rise, they dust off their dust jackets and arrange themselves neatly back on the shelves. Thirty days later, their pocket book children are born.
Now not only do I have to worry about where to store all these books, but I also have to concern myself with who is standing next to whom. I mean, you wouldn’t want delicate hothouse flower Emily Dickinson standing next to James Dickey, the author of Deliverance, would you? Or classy Mary Higgins Clark next to rough-and-tumble Louis L’Amour? I wouldn’t think William Faulkner would have a whole lot to say to Danielle Steel. Real romance, however, might develop between Philip Roth (Portnoy’s Complaint) and Erica Jong (The Fear of Flying). I also think Thomas Wolfe and Joan Didion would enjoy each other’s company over a cosmopolitan at a trendy New York nightclub. Truman Capote might get a kick out of Jackie Collins. I can see them attending a fancy costume ball gossiping about everyone under the sun. Samuel Pepys and Dominick Dunne might enjoy chatting over a glass of chardonnay about the famous and infamous. In fact, Capote, Collins, Pepys and Dunne should all get together. I'm sure they'd have a grand old time. Mystery writers might actually form a club where all sorts of relationships might form and flourish: Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, James Patterson and Janet Evanovich, gritty, gory Jeffrey Deaver and equally gritty, gory Kathy Reichs, Jonathan Kellerman and Faye Kellerman. Oh, wait… They’re already married. I wonder if they met in a bookcase somewhere. Oh, dear. There on the bottom shelf, all by himself, his face against the wall is J.D. Salinger. It seems nobody can coax him to come out and play.
I believe I’ve stumbled onto a phenomenon that requires far more study and analysis. Perhaps Playboy and Penthouse might want to investigate. Or how about a TV special entitled “The Secret Life of Books?”