Wasn’t it Erasmus who said that whenever he got a little money, first he bought books, and then, were there a little left over, food and clothes? Yes, it seems it was, well, sort of. It’s a mangled quote always attributed to him, at least, and we like it that way, don’t we?
Well, I used to be like that. No longer am I quite so spendthirft with books, nor even so much of a hoarder as I used to be, but after several hours of packing — mainly books — I am convinced that the most considerable part of my possessions is indeed my collection of books. I remember recently, at a co-worker’s house for dinner, her commenting about something she learned in her many travels; that, “The book will always be there,” and so there was no real reason to hang onto any one book, even one well-beloved.
I am of a different tack, of course, because whilst (perhaps unlike Erasmus) I am not continually referencing them, I do feel their presence in my mind when they exert a presence in my life. Living in Korea, where there are, occasionally, English collections to which one may gain access, one still feels a much greater urge to collect such books as one happens upon, either in borrowed keeping or in purchase or trade.
As I calculate it, when I finish I shal have roughly 10 boxes of books; three or maybe four of kitchen things — including hoarded spices and teas, but also pots and pans and other such goods; a few big bags of whichever clothes I determine to keep, as others I shall discard in the poor-gifting bins; a couple of boxes of odds and ends; perhaps two plastic containers with my CD and DVD collections in them; and my computer. My only furniture are a desk I may abandon, a clothes-cabinet I almost certainly will abandon, and two bookcases which it seems silly to leave behind considering I shall have to pay someone to move the books themselves. No bed, as I prefer to sleep on a mat upon the floor; no table, as I was given one by my employer; perhaps a few bathroom things, such as cannot be gotten so cheaply as to be negligible purchases in Seoul.
And though, yes, there are ten boxes of tomes, I do fancy that still, my life is much less material here in Asia than it was in Canada; I have accumulated much less, much more slowly. Only one box, thus far, of notes, papers, sketches of characters, drafts of stories, and other such things as will someday be in my collection of papers in some academic library somewhere, should I finally do as well in writing as I (not so secretly) hope. No television, no stereo; my computer fills the need, when, and only when, I actively wish it. No couch, for one can sit upon the floor and enjoy life, as much as one can enjoy it seated on some dreadful thing which one eventually finds himself hurting his back in lifting.
One painting on my wall, kept only because it is from a friend, and suits my perspective. A box of whatever shoes are still useful when I take my leave of Jeonju. A couple of umbrellas, and some glasses. A pig with nearly a thousand origami cranes, also a friend’s gift. A bicycle.
I am not abhoring this move anywhere near as much as I have abhorred all others before it.
Thus, happy am I.
But of course, only because someone else shall be lifting each of those ten boxes of books, instead of me. I wonder whether Erasmus moved houses a lot.