We’ve all heard of the phrase ‘you are what you eat’, but what if we are what we read?
The last time I looked at my shelves it was like looking in a mirror. My past and future dreams rested on those shelves, all my beliefs and prejudices jumbled one atop the other in a yellow paged, dog-eared testament to who I am. Perhaps this explains the vulnerable feeling I get when a guest peruses my bookshelf. It feels like they are turning the pages of my diary.
And when someone reveals their favourite book to me I feel I have been given a key to their soul.
Books will come and go, but there are tomes on my shelf that have stood the test of time and which I know will be with me always. This is what I think these stories say about me…
I am darkwoods, greenwoods. I am the winterwood, the wildwood, time standing still and deer-poems.
I’m wardrobes to other lands, the people of the sea, hag riders, the beast beneath the skin and eloquent carnivores. Retellings and classics. A singing bone. The light fantastic.
I am legends of the earth, folktales from home. Gold hoards. Other-world elegies. Equal parts milky woods of spring and bleak groaning castles. The sword in the stone, the discarded scabbard, a hand rising from the icy loch. Hauntings. Huntings. An iron wolf, I am. Stories told by firelight. Webbed fingers and dog-headed mist. In me lie absurd Arthurian tales, Fians, faeries and Picts.
My soul comprises the gothic philosophies of Dinesen, the transcendent animality of Lawrence and Carter’s bloody chambers. I am a crawling Nightwood. The sorrowing of Tennyson, Valerie’s adventures, the wild gloaming of Grimm.
I am a girl and her jackdaw, dying but unconquered. The romance of Chretien de Troyes tempered by the chill logic of Grendel in his cave.
Winter, lais, metaphysics and werewolves. Every volume of Anais Nin’s heart. I am owl-faced, flower-handed, mountain-brained. Perhaps too inward-looking at times, with a tendency to dream. Fable-eater, knowledge seeker. With every book I grow.
My shelf is over-full but incomplete. I wish for books without borders and an end to my literary blind spots. For though there is comfort in familiarity and treasure in rereads I do not want more of the same.
In three words I am folklore, symbols, mystery.
Your bookshelf is a mirror. What do you see reflected back?