Wednesday, January 30, 2013


You'll have to forgive me (or I hope you will) - I was sixteen.
The book was on my high school English teacher's loaner shelf, there for me to borrow, and then bring back, and I borrowed it, and I'm still borrowing it, and now I don't know where the teacher lives, so what can I do?

The reason I never returned the book was because in it I found an essay by Dylan Thomas that started like this:

  "I was born in a large Welsh town at the beginning of the Great War---an ugly, lovely town (or so it was and is to me), crawling, sprawling by a long and splendid curving shore where truant boys and sandfield boys and old men from nowhere, beachcombed, idled and paddled, watched the dock-bound ships or the ships streaming away into wonder and India, magic and China, countries bright with oranges and loud with lions; threw stones into the sea for the barking outcast dogs; made castles and forts and harbours and race tracks in the sand; and on Saturday afternoons listened to the brass band, watched the Punch and Judy, or hung about on the fringes of the crowd to hear the fierce religious speakers who shouted at the sea, as though it were wicked and wrong to roll in and out like that, white-horsed and full of fishes."

This paragraph can explain so much, like why I never could stop wanting to write, and why I gather books just to have them (even if they don't belong to me), and why I tend to like parentheses, and why my sentences tend to run on for whole paragraphs.

Until I have to break them up.

I never returned the book because I could never let go of a line like, "streaming away into wonder and India, magic and China, countries bright with oranges and loud with lions."

Could you? Aha, I thought not.

So here's your assignment: Go to your shelves and pull down the library book you never returned. Find the line that made you keep it.

And tell us.

We love to read what you can't let go.


Megan Sayer said...

Oh no!
I wasn't going to leave a comment tonight, it's getting late and I should go to bed, but you've set my mind whirling with thoughts and memories now, so I think the best thing to do is say them, so that I can sleep. I'll try to be (relatively) short.
First: by the time I was old enough to be in love with words my library had a photocopier which I was allowed to use. Some of those old papers are still around my house. Dylan Thomas in particular. I LOVE Dylan Thomas. I did, however, buy cassette tapes, or tape songs from the radio because of a line or two of lyrics. The only thing I ever shoplifted (because I didn't have quite enough money, and I left what money I had there in its place) was a tape with a song whose words were so beautiful I felt completely justified in needing to own them. I was 15.
Second: the books on the shelves that are (strictly speaking) not mine are there because I found myself in them. When you find youself in a book it's very, very hard to send it anywhere out of your own room, or later, out of your own house. I remember being horrified when I was younger that other people had copies of "my" books, because I felt sure they could never have understood those people, those situations, those feelings, as I understood them, and therefore they shouldn't be reading them. They were far too private to discuss or share.
Third: the only book I ever stole from a library (yes, I actually stole it. Didn't bother with all that hoo-ha about overdues and such, I just walked out with it..I was 15) was Ursula le Guin's A Very Long Way From Anywhere Else, and that was because, yes, I wanted to own the words of that ending. I can't even remember how it ended it was that long ago (and I got rid of the book a couple of years ago in a pang of guilt...probably should buy a copy again, and one for that old school library) but I remember clearly that it was the first book I'd read that gave me a sense of how beautifully words could end a story yet allow it to continue indefinitely, and I wanted to do that, to be that writer.
Hmmm. I probably still didn't answer you. Does it count?

Kathleen Popa said...

"...Words could end a story yet allow it to continue indefinitely."

I just love that. Yes, absolutely.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Time for bed little goose little goose, the stars are out and on the loose.

I read this one to my girls when they were babies, and yep, I kept it!

~ Wendy

Kathleen Popa said...

Oh, Wendy I LOVE that line!

Susie Finkbeiner said...

I stole my sister's copy of "East of Eden". There are so many lines from that novel that make me swoon. But I guess this one is most relevant to me at the moment...

"And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good."

Cherry Odelberg said...

Oh, look at all those lovely semicolons; so maligned by editors and agents nowadays.

Cherry Odelberg said...

Mostly, when I find a book that moves me, I buy a copy for myself-- or seize it at a thrift store or yard sale. I like to underline well-turned phrases and would never do that to a borrowed book. Likewise, it is hard to loan a book I have loved and underlined. Too intimate.
Hmmm, avoiding the question. Does it count if I got the book as a gift for someone else and then kept it for myself?

Sharon K. Souza said...

Don Quixote, from a library in Folsom, California. We moved suddenly and I had no opportunity to return it. But I'm not sure I would have. I so love the language of that book. I often thought, in the early years, of mailing it back. But, much like the "borrower" in Katy's cartoon, I feared they'd track me down and demand the fine. So I held onto it. Alas, it disappeared over the years. Who knows, maybe it will turn up one of these days?

Patti Hill said...

As the resident teacher and librarian, I absolve you all of your sins against literature. And I will share a secret: teachers, especially, may grumble a bit when a book goes missing, but we all hope that, like Katy, a love affair with words has begun, made sweeter for its illicit nature. Please don't tell anyone.

Jennifer Major said...

I was the church librarian for years. I don't have a library book anywhere in my house.
But I do have a few books lent to me by friends that umm....moved away years ago. But the book is in a cupboard of a cabinet that is missing the knob. But that book burns a hole in my conscience at least once a year. It was a dog behaviour book.

Kathleen Popa said...

Susie, that rings so true. I think I'll post that somewhere where I can see it.

Cherry, I love semicolons too; and also - elipses. Interesting that the book I stole is one of the few I haven't marked up.

Kathleen Popa said...

Sharon, yes, who knew that library fines could drive you to the soup line?

Patti, will you be my teacher?

Jennifer, was a really well written dog behaviour book?

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

I. Love. This.

I'm late to comment, but at least I'm in keeping with the theme... ;-)

I hate to be such a goody-goody, but I don't think I've ever kept a library book. Plenty of books I lent to others that never came home, though... much to my heartbreak! Some of those books I mourned for years.

Sara said...

Um . . . thanks for reminding me to renew my books. :)

My favorite library book story though is of one that I wanted to steal, and didn't. When our oldest daughter was just two, her favorite bedtime story was "Nocturne" by Jane Yolen. Beautiful poem. Then we moved and our poor two year old couldn't understand why her favorite book had disappeared. And it was out of print. Tragedy. My MIL ended up writing Ms. Yolen, and we end up with a signed copy and personal letter--and a book that has been a favorite for each of our four children.