For the love of… books

Book Soup – Audrey Niffenegger book signing
Waiting… reading…

My love affair with books occurred hard and fast, at a very young age. Even before I could read, my mother would read those little Golden story books to me, and I could recite them from memory, simply because I’d heard them so often. I love the pictures that illustrated the stories. They provided just enough fuel for my imagination to launch me into these worlds, making them seem more real, at times, than the one I lived in. My favorite stories were Rumplestiltskin and The Princess and the Pea. I suffered an appendicitis attack during the winter of 1971, and while recovering at the Montreal Children’s Hospital I was accompanied by my whole library of Golden books. Little did I know that they would not be following me back home—my mother had decided that I’d outgrown them and had donated them to the hospital.

I don’t part well with books. I’m sure I’m permanently scarred due to that singular act of goodwill on my mother’s behalf. I gave up borrowing them from the library because I could never seem to bring them back on time… sometimes not at all (and ended up paying a whole lot more for the book than if I would have purchased it outright). So, there began my book addiction, and all that it implies.

Herein began my voracious consumption of books without pictures (or with considerably less than the donated tomes)… Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, Archie and Richie Rich comics… Harlequin Romance and other similar syrup (as my mother liked to call them). Thankfully, because I was from eighth grade onward in enriched language arts classes, I got to read stuff that wasn’t normally assigned… like sci-fi along with the usually assigned classics. I started reading Huxley and then moved on to Ayn Rand, Marilyn French, Erica Jong, Margaret Atwood, Margaret Lawrence, Marie-Claire Blais… Anais Nin… D.H. Laurence… Emile Nelligan… and then off into the realms of the mysterious and occult… Ouspensky and Crowley… Jane Roberts… Elizabeth Montgomery… Lopsang Rampa… Edgar Cayce… Shakti Gawain… Jess Stern… and more. On the lighter side, I graduated to The Warlord (for comics) and played D&D with a gang of guys, and started reading lots of fantasy/sci-fi stuff… the DragonLance series… Jack L. Chalker’s Soul Rider series (published by DelRey)… ahhh… and then Clive Barker, Peter Straub, Stephen King, Dean Koontz…

Today my books are mostly non-fiction, how-to books that are largely art related, or related to the process of creating (art or words). I still buy and have a fairly large collection of esoterica… and mythology continues to fascinate me. Graphic novels have become an obsession. And this brings me to my Sunday afternoon visit to Book Soup on Sunset in West Hollywood. Audrey Niffenegger, author (and artist extraordinaire) was present for a book signing of her recently released “picture book” The Adventuress. This book was the last of three books released, and yet was the first she completed. Originally an edition of ten hand printed and bound letterpress books, created during two years of college, it has now been made accessible to the rest of us by virtue of mass printing. I purchased the new book at the shop and brought my previously purchased book, The Three Incestuous Sisters, of similar construct and scope. Widely known for her non-picture book The Time Traveller’s Wife, it was the first of the three books published, though the last one written chronologically.

It was interesting to listen to Audrey speak about the creation of the book (which took approximately two years to complete), whereas the Sisters book took about ten years. She works as a teacher and manages to find time and inclination to write and create works of art besides. We are not so far apart in age, she and I, and I was looking up at her as she stood at the lectern, thinking “That could have been me…” While left-hooking my shadow for my purported “failures” I am given a new sense of hope… that it’s never too late to move toward our dreams. Although, for me, creating “stuff” is an uncontrollable drive that is all-consuming and takes on a life of its own, I find it difficult to stay focused and on-task for long enough to create a completed end product. When I don’t create I reach a sort of critical mass, threatening to explode if I don’t facilitate some sort of exit, though I have yet to build a body of work that is cohesive enough to present to a gallery for consideration. Perhaps it is due to lack of training and knowledge of technique… or perhaps a lack of discipline… perhaps it is somewhat an amalgam of both.

As an artist or writer, I often feel like I am merely a vessel, a tool by which the “stuff” manifests itself. Maybe this is how the universe came into being… I think I’m ready to build mine…


1 thought on “For the love of… books

  1. KellyKilmer

    thanks Adriane for posting this…I was hoping you had gone and would post how it was…
    I always enjoy reading what you write….thank you for sharing 🙂

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