Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Multiple Copies

I don't go out to the movies much. I think I have actually been to the theatre (that's re, not er) for real live plays more than the movies this year, which is fine with me. That's not to say that I don't like movies, I just would rather not pay $10 to go see one. I do, however, utilize the fabulous King Country Library system for the purpose of free movie rentals. It's like Netflix for free: you place a hold on an upcoming release, find yourself as number 547 of 935 holds, and wait patiently for the movie to magically appear at your local library. Sometimes it takes a little longer than you would like, but hey, it's free.

A movie I put on hold a few months back came up last week: Definitely, Maybe. It is a sweet tale of a father telling his daughter the story of the three women that he has loved in his life. He changes the names so that the daughter has to guess from the story which of the women ends up being her mother. Unfortunately, the parents are currently divorcing, which lends a sad element to the story. But eventually the daughter guesses (correctly) and everyone learns good lessons.

Anyway, I liked the film, and I even liked how it ended. But what I really loved was that a major plot element was the fact that one of the girls owned multiple copies of the same book. She had an entire collection of used copies of Jane Eyre. Now, some of you may know that used books are one of the great loves of my life. You may also know that Jane Eyre is one of my favorite novels. But you probably didn't know that like the heroine of our movie, I too have multiple copies of this book on my shelf. Currently in my collection are three, no I think four, editions of Jane Eyre.

Now, the girl in the movie had way more. Probably about twenty or so. I recognized several versions on her shelf as ones I had seen in stores and/or owned myself. She had a touching family story related to the book and was searching for one specific copy (which incidentally, is an edition I have also seen and almost bought once). I have no such story-in fact, other books have impacted me more than Bronte's tale of the governess and her devotion to morality in the midst of passion. But for some reason I keep buying beautiful copies of the same book.

You see, it is not just the story for me. Old books are beautiful and comforting-they are a multisensory experience with their worn leather covers and old style font. The inscriptions in fancy handwriting, the illustrations, the sense of history that they give lends something to the reading process that a new mass-manufactured Barnes & Noble paperback just can't match. You read the book and wonder about the person who has held it in her hands before you-did she cry at that part? Did she throw the book in anger at a lover? Toss it away in disgust? Clutch it to her chest in prayer?

Reading a book can be a life-changing process. As you read, you see yourself, you see your parents and friends, you see the person you love in all their beauty and weakness. The details might be different, but the personalities are the same-I saw myself in Madame Bovary and in St. Augustine's Confessions. These books changed me in ways I can only call spiritual. At times in my life when I could barely pray, God spoke through the writings of both believers and atheists to get His point across. And so each time I pick up a book and read notes in the margins, I wonder how God changed the previous owner's life-if they heard the Spirit whispering to them while they read Ash Wednesday.

I have been able so far to keep most of my purchases to books I do not already own, although I don't count ugly paperbacks in that estimation. I do have more than one copy of Pride and Prejudice, I believe, even though I do not score as Elizabeth Bennet in my "Which Jane Austen Character Are You?" quiz on Facebook (I am more like Elinor Dashwood, from Sense and Sensibility or Anne Eliot from Persuasion). I am sure though that as I continue to haunt bookstores and antique malls I will time and again buy a beautiful copy of say, Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca or Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov simply because of a great inscription or a beautiful cover.

And one of these days I will again find that same edition of Jane Eyre that was featured in the movie, and I think, perhaps, I shall buy it. That will only make five copies-I still have a long way to go.

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