themon my own erratic schedule. Every time we go through our annual expenses for tax purposes, I’m well aware of how much I spend for this pleasure. It’s an expensive habitbut tax-deductible for writers. As the world goes paperless, I’m sure that one of these days we’ll buy a Kindle. They’re perfect for people like me who live in abject fear of turning up somewhereanywherewithout something to read. People like me who have been reduced to reading the ingredient lists on cereal cartons. But that’s the future. Now, we need to pare down our books in order to lease our house. I announce to my husband that we definitely cannot add one more book to our collection. If we get a new one, we have to give away an old one. He nods, almost listening. Later that week I find myself at a bookstore. It’s an accident, I swear. I find myself lurching from section to section, finding this novel and that one, clutching them in my fevered little fists, then carting them to the checkout counter. Later, I shamelessly smuggle them into the house when my husband isn’t around to notice. Like Jane Austen, like the Bronte sisters, I am sneaking around. I feel dirty, but secretly thrilled. “Do you think you can clear some room on your bookshelves?” the brother of our prospective tenant asks us. “My sister and her husband have a lot of books, too.” “You won’t believe it,” I tell him, following his eyes to the profusion, “but we’re already given away a lot of our books. A third of them, maybe.” He nods and watches me expectantly. “I’ll see if we can clear some more space,” I say. It figures. Oh, it figures. Two shameless book-buyers, bookhoarders, book-lovers, people who feel safe and happy surrounded by books, are leasing their house and their shelf space to people just like themselves. I shudder to think about it. I can only imagine how the shelves will sag when we get back, a significant nine months later. Commentator and author Ruth Pennebaker lives in Austin and blogs at www.geezersisters.corn. PREVIEW Speed: Art, 2003 -2009, artwork and essay by Julie Speed, fiction by A.M. Holmes, and essay by Elizabeth Ferrer, forthcoming from University of Texas Press in September. JULY 10, 2009 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 39
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