Site icon Margaret Coombs

Buying Books

When I retired from the University of Wisconsin-Manitowoc, I became ineligible to use the statewide UW libraries’ resource-sharing service. I like poetry, memoirs, and sometimes essays and novels. My kind of literature is published by small presses, or with a small press run, something out-of-print but not out of copyright, something that has too low of expected usage for a public library to buy or keep. The kind of books that many academic libraries collect and preserve.

Since there’s still a silo between academic and public library interlibrary loan services, I have made my peace with buying the books I want. I can personalize them, underline passages, reread them whenever I like. They pile up on a counter, never needing to be returned. It feels extravagant.

I just ordered Earthly Signs: Moscow Diaries 1917-1922, after reading Dark Elderberry Branch by Marina Tsvetaeva, tr. by Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine. I remember finding one of Tsvetaeva’s diary entries published in a lit journal (which?) in (when?) sitting (where?) and reading how, during the revolutionary years, she lived in a house where the former occupants had chopped up the staircase for fuel. She had to climb a rope each night to get upstairs to sleep.

While I read, my Self faded away. What remained was the image, the emotion, the ability to imagine another person’s life and to cross the limits of time and place to do so.

Image: Марина Ивановна Цветаева (w:Marina Tsvetayeva), 1925 Photograph by Pyotr Ivanovich Shumov (1872-1936). This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 70 years or fewer.

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