Shome Dasgupta talks trips to Barnes & Noble, books of wizardry, and the joy of rediscovery.
The first place I visited after receiving my driver’s license was the local Barnes & Noble. This was around 8 p.m., and I distinctly remember getting into the car, putting on my seatbelt, and then turning on the ignition. I checked the rearview mirror and then the sideview mirrors. I took a deep breath and put my 10,000 Maniacs CD (the Unplugged version) into the player. I remember whispering to myself, “I’m going to the bookstore.” The first song I listened to while driving for the first time was “Because the Night.” It was the only song I listened to that night, as I kept it on repeat. I sang along, over and over again, until I eventually pulled into the parking lot of the bookstore. This would be the first of countless nights I’ve walked through the shelves of the local Barnes & Noble after driving there on my own.
I would walk around and around, looking at the covers of books, cherishing their titles, feeling the texture of the pages, seeing how they felt as I turned each page. I would look at the fonts with wide eyes and value the different colors and energies each book exhibited. I would try to remember authors’ names and publishing companies and the years their works were published. I was in a playground of sorts — overwhelmed, at times, as to which aisle to go to next.
This became a routine, almost a daily routine for quite some time, and I was always excited to see which book or books would transfer to their new home, into my room full of shelves waiting to be full and overflowing. Some days were easier than others, as I wanted to read every book in the store, or honestly, every book ever written. But I knew there would always be another day, another night, when I could pick up another book and take it home to my personal library.
And every time I would drive to the bookstore, I would listen to “Because the Night,” whether the sun was out or the moon, anticipating which author, which title, which book cover would be standing with such magical powers on my bookshelf. I would spend hours upon hours trying to make a decision. Sometimes the description on the back cover would do it for me, or, yes, simply the book cover, or the opening lines, or if I recognized the author’s name, or if I didn’t recognize the author’s name — it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that it was a book full of wizardry.
As I look at my bookshelves now, they are all cluttered and disorganized. There is no order as to the placement of each book. If there’s a space, I’ll just put books there. Sometimes I think about putting them into some kind of order. But how would I do it? Alphabetical order via last name of the author? The first name? By title? Or maybe by the publishing company? Or publishing date? Or by the color of the spine? By the size of the book? The width? By favorites? I’m not sure if I’ll ever get around to organizing my collection, or, well, I’m pretty sure that I won’t. I think it’s because I love the search. I love knowing that I have a particular title, and I love going through each shelf in search of it, sometimes realizing I had a book that I didn’t know that I had — a rediscovery of sorts. And when I do find that particular book on my shelf, it’s such a wonderful moment. A moment of anticipation coming into fruition, a moment of splendor, because, well, because the night.