Modern friendship


January 24, 2015 by carolinetanski

After I move, I always set aside a chunk of time for my books. Sometimes it’s a morning project with a pot of strong coffee. This time I found myself with a free Saturday night, some red wine, and a hankering to feel settled.

For all literary people I know, whether readers, writers, or librarians (in my case, all of the above), this process is sacred. There are so many different ways to organize, so many ways to prioritize. Books, for some of us, are old friends, companions, memory triggers, solace. My mother doesn’t understand the urge to own books. Borrowing them is plenty for her.

The initial mess

The initial mess

Tonight, while sorting and alphabetizing, I remembered again why borrowing is not always enough for me. Some books are so important that I need to be able to go back to them again and again, not only to the book but to the self I was when I met the book, when I jotted marginalia (in pencil—still a librarian), when different sentences or ideas stuck with me.

Organizing my books takes me hours. I settle in with my coffee or my wine and slowly decide how I want them arranged. This time they’re broken mostly by genre, then subgenre if necessary, author or editor last name, and in the case of multiple books by one author finally alphabetized by title. I pause as I go to leaf through the pages and reacquaint myself with them, to remember when they came into my life and how they changed me.

That's better

That’s better

That is how I found, again, one of my favorite passages from one of my favorite writers. The last few months have been about uprooting for me, which has given me a new and humbling appreciation for my solidest friends. Friendships are not simple when they’re close and long, and that’s part of the beauty. In appreciation of my dearest ones, who have forgiven me when I have not been at my best, some words from a formidable man:

“It is a melancholy fact that unless you are a saint you are bound to offend every friend deeply at least once in the course of time. The friends I have kept the longest are those who forgave me for wronging them, unintentionally, intentionally, or by the plain catastrophe of my personality, time and again. There can be no friendship without forgiveness.”

—Phillip Lopate, “Modern Friendships,” in Getting Personal (New York: Basic Books, 2003), 166.

2 thoughts on “Modern friendship

  1. What wonderful timing, Caroline! As I get ready to move — and place most of my books in storage for a little while — I’ve been thinking a lot about books and my relationship to them. Glad yours are settled into their new home now. That always makes such a difference!

    • Good luck with your move, Melissa! It’s amazing how much “home” is wrapped up in books. I’m sure yours will miss you, but I’ve no doubt that the reunion will be even sweeter for the separation.

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