Happy birthday to me!
Well, not quite yet… but my birthday present to myself arrived in the mail yesterday afternoon and I am super excited! It is my very first First Edition: Neil Gaiman’s ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’.
My dad has a collection of First Editions, namely works of John le Carré and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and I know several other books-enthusiasts and authors who do, but I never quite understood the intrigue. When I discovered the Sherlock Holmes novels resting on my father’s shelf, I asked him if I might borrow a couple to read. I was met with a stern, No and please don’t touch them. He then explained that they were First Editions, more for collecting than for reading. Why own a book you don’t intend to read? I wondered.
I got older, I read more.
The feeling didn’t change.
In a previous post I discussed how Amanda Palmer’s review of ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ provided some interesting insight on how artists draw inspiration from life and incorporate it in their work. What I did not mention is that her review of the book made me want to purchase it. Right. That. Second.
As a fan of both Palmer and Gaiman (and their union), I could not wait to get my eyes on the words that were a result of their lives both getting plopped into the blender. (Read Palmer’s review or my earlier post if you don’t understand or think this sounds morbid.) Even more so, I was excited to read something of which I had the rare pleasure of having peeked behind the curtain. I was privy to even the smallest amount of the true story that had gone into the fiction, knew some of the parts that had gone into the blender.
Immediately, I clicked the link to make my purchase. What I hadn’t realized when I’d read the review was that the book had literally come out that day. I get very many of my books second-hand or from the library, so it produced an unexpected thrill to know that I’d be the first person to peruse the pages of this purchase. Then something else unexpected happened.
You could get a First Edition.
The words entered my brain as if some little devil sitting on my shoulder had whispered them into my ear. I only say ‘devil’ because the idea seemed somewhat taboo in my mind. I am not a collector of First Editions. This was a hobby reserved for established authors and true literature enthusiasts. I just wanted a book to read. But before I knew it, I was making the purchase of my first-ever First Edition.
It felt like some sort of milestone – how I imagine the purchase of your first home or making the final payment on a stack of exorbitant school loans to feel. Rather than some sort of achievement of independence, I had made a small step toward the life I expected those I aim to emulate to have. A First Edition. And not just of any book… but a book written by an author I greatly admire and whose advice I tend to find quite sound; a book written for a musician I greatly admire and whose strength and art have helped me through some of the toughest times of my life; a book that, even if I can’t see it, even if the blender is set too high for anyone but Neil and Amanda to recognize the original ingredients, tells a story based on the intimacy and frustrations between them. It is a story of significance. I don’t know why this already touches me so much. It almost feels like a privilege to be able to read it – as if they trusted us (the readers) with one of the most intimate pieces of themselves.
Is that a characteristic of all art? I wonder.
It wasn’t until I received the book in the mail – carefully packaged in three protective layers – that I remembered something: First Editions, more for collecting than reading.
And still I thought, How silly.
But this time, my mind formed a different question – perhaps indicative of surpassing this milestone in my goals. Why publish a book if you don’t want someone to read it?
So taboo or not…
I have my book and I’m reading it, too.