Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Warm novels and cold novels

Except for my dog I lived on my own, for I had never married, though I think I came near once, and so even the silences here were mine. It was a place built around silences: my father was a reader of books and spreading along the walls from the wood stove stretched the long bookcases from the living room and on to the kitchen at the back and right and left to both bedrooms, four shelves high, holding every book he ever owned or read, which was the same thing, for my father did indeed read everything. I was surrounded therefore by 3,282 books, leatherbound, first editions paperbacks, all in good condition, arranged by alphabet and recorded on lists written in fountain pen. And because the bookcase ringed the entire cabin--and since some rooms were darker and colder than others, being distant from the woodstove--there were also warm novels and cold novels. Many of the cold novels had authors whose last names began with letters after "J" and before "M," so writers like Johnson and Joyce, Malory and Owen lived back near the bedrooms. My father called it an outpost of Alexandria in Maine, after the Greek library, and he liked nothing better when he came in after work than to stretch his socks to the fire until they steamed, and in his thick sweater and smoking his pipe then turn to me and ask for a particular book and I remembered the cold pages in my hands, carrying to my father the volume he wanted, watching it warm under his eyes by the fire, and when he was finished I carried the warm book back to its shelf and slid it in, a thighter fit because it had grown slightly in the heat.

--Gerard Donovan, Julius Winsome


  1. Hi!
    I found your blog on LibraryThing and wanted to stop by and say hi.
    I was really struck by this post - such lovely writing and so evocative. Looking forward to reading more!

  2. What a beautiful passage. What an intriguing novel. I'll have to look closely at this one.

  3. I'd never heard of this one until a few weeks back when it suddenly became all the rage at Readerville. It's well worth reading. I hope you both get your hands on a copy and share your thoughts with me once you've finished.


As a reader I cherish the fantasy of one day stopping acquiring books, of subsisting only on what is already stashed away in the crammed lar...