Books have a fragrance. The textbooks I had in grade school smelled sweet, like vanilla. The massive old bible our family inherited smelled like cigarettes and damp paper. The novels I read as a kid also had their own particularly pulpy smell.
There is something very personal about a smell. Something intimate.
On my recent trip to Boulder, I stepped into a used bookstore and was delighted by the smell of aging paper. People keep telling me I need to get an e-reader. I might someday, sure. But for now, I do love the joy that comes from discovering a book's acquired scent (from previous owners?), the scribbled notes in the margins and, of course, those little identifiers, "this book belongs to..." penciled onto the front pages.
The book I ended up buying in Boulder, The Time Traveler, by Joyce Carol Oates, smells like dust and old leather. And maybe a bit of rain. It has only one page of scribbled notes, where someone dared (!) write a bit of their own poetry.
It is the image we search for,
but honestly As we separate
It is that we struggle to
salvage different colored candies
we're like children plastered to
windows after the rained out
party with the sugar dissolving
on the red picnic tables
I have no idea what this means, but I love it all the same. I wish I had had the courage to write my poetry (in pen!) in someone else's book. Who knows, maybe by now all of my old books smell like me (have you ever tried to smell yourself? It's nearly impossible - like trying to look at your own eyeball). But, is it too late to start scribbling?
(Maybe I'll start poetry bombing. Yes!)