Posts Tagged ‘books’

Burnt Sacrifice

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

IMG_8877Smoke hangs in the air like the lazy wispy breath of a dragon left dormant, but dangerous. Filling the highest corners of the room, wrapping itself around you like a soft caress of a lover tracing the line of your cheekbones with tender ghostly hands. You pick up the books, each page carries the sent of cigarette smoke from the shop owner who sits languidly with his feet up on the small modest desk, the slight remnants of mud dripping from his work boots onto loose papers scattered haphazardly around the desk. Chair tilted back, one arm across his chest, the other cocked with the cigarette held like a smoking gun before the hazy grin of the warden of the books locked away behind glass cabinets. His wrinkled eyes squint with the stretched grin of a man who has seen too many things, watching the people as they come and go, enter only to leave, but the books remain the same. Slowly soaking in the poison fumes of his cigarette, which languidly rolls off the cherry red embers of the burning end, the books have been drinking the bitter taste of cancer for so long it has begun to taste sweet again. 

The warden flicks his hand sending the blunt withered end of the spent cigarette cascading into its pit of ash. Like an offering to the Gods, this burnt sacrifice has left only ashes and the smoke, the ghost of an offer, left to wander the pages of the books for an eternity of antiquity.


Disposable, discardable, and undesired, the remnants of a sacred offering turned to decay before the coals could fully die away. The slightest hint of red still pulsing in its dying frame. The man who cast the smokey ghost to the ceiling of the room, who, through cracked lips breathed the ghost into being from lungs grown slick with tar. He is a modern day dragon caught amongst his sacred treasure trove of books. But like the dragon that hoards his treasure until the end of his days, the dragon of smoke pillars, the keeper of books, this creature not only destroys himself but brings ruin to the books that grow weathered with curling brown pages tainted and torn by the breath of a dragon left floating in the air.

Yet how sweet the smell has become, how romantic this hazy den of treasure has grown, like the lull of sweet sleep before the eternal slumber finally pulls you down. Is this how it will end? With a moment of glorious transformation, in which the bitter becomes the greatest and most just of desserts that has ever come before my seeking hands? But maybe not on this cold day, where the smoke constricts yet warms my face like the kiss of a caring grandmother rough like sand paper against my cheek.

The dragon smiles behind his desk, watching with leering eyes my path that I am led down by the smoky trails of a ghost I cannot seem to grasp. Intoxicated by the warmth of its seking, the spell only broken with the ringing of a bell. The front door opens, a rush of fresh air, the awakening of reality as the smoke escapes through the door and I follow suit, leaving the dragon behind the door as he reaches into his desk, pulls out a new cigarette and witha  flcik of his hands, the very same gesture he used to discard his offering, lights another cigarette a new. His eyes watch me through the glass as the cigarette burns red again, he tilts his head back letting out another fresh plume of smoke between grinning teeth. The dragon has begun again.


Il Giorno dei Libri

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

As an English Literature major, and an avid lover of books, there is no paradise like that of sheltered haven of old books housed in a library with towering walls of ancient tomes and centuries old unopened pages. The other day I was in a book lover’s paradise. The name even seemed appropriate, Biblioteca Angelica, referring to the original collections owner Angelo, but to me it felt like a library of angels.


The Study Abroad Program I attend at the University of California Center in Rome has the ever fulfilling practice of site visits, wherein we the students get to go out into the wonders of Rome and have our lectures on site in many of the amazing places Rome has to offer up to those who seek its treasures. For one of my classes, Rome and Renaissance Literature, we had the pleasure of getting a mini little tour of Biblioteca Angelica and all of its centuries old wonders.


We were taken into the library and given a tour in Italian, which I was happy to discover I could understand almost everything she was saying. Our gracious host and guide through this wonderland of books, was kind enough to impart her extensive knowledge on the origins of the collection and its relation to the Church of St. Augustine, and the associated convent. The actual library itself, which is open to the public for study usage, and you know I will be back there in a heartbeat to study as soon as I can, was truly incredible. High ceilings, filled to the brim with walls of centuries old books, covering every inch of the walls, wrapped from top bottom and every corner of the building lined with beautiful tomes and books.


Standing in a library of old books is like standing in a sea of whispered words. Sinking into a warm abyss of aged pages, and words reaching out from paper to wrap and coil around your heart and mind like seaweed vines entwined around your being to bring you back to the books that sit silently, but softly calling your name. There is nothing more magical than a library filled with books spanning the great divide of time.IMG_8120

The library is from the 17th century, and many of it’s books are older than that. We were lucky enough to be brought down into another layer of the library where our host showed us some truly mazing treasures. She treated us to a handful of ancient books all from around the 1540’s that were just breath taking. There is something about a fragile binding, the browned pages thick and weighty to the touch, the gothic and italic scripts of printing press or a gifted hand that fills me with awe struck wonder. So much care went into these books, such dedication and time spent to create each one of these, and to think of how far they have come, and how long they have survived to end up in my hands at the very moment they were placed before me, today, this year, this life. It is amazing to think of the journeys that books take in their life time, not all of them are strong enough to weather the storm of time, but others are cared for or are lucky enough to be protected by the caring and cherishing embrace of a guardian. The stories that lie within the pages of these books, not just in the words on the page, but the stories and tales of time imbedded in the grain of the books, in every torn page or browned edge from the years that it lived and survived.


Looking carefully at each book placed before us, with eyes wide with wonder, the class beheld the books that beat back time to be with us in that very moment. IMG_8048

We had a selection of books placed before us, but the most notable for us and our class were three works we specifically had and would be going over in class. The poems from Pasquino, taken from the talking statue and published so that the voice of stone could be read more universally, the poems from the counter poetic contest established by Goritz under the statue of St. Anne and the Raphael fresco of Isaiah in the book Coryciana, and finally, the one that took my breath away, a really old copy of the Book of the Courtier by Castiglione.

The Pasquillorum, pictured below was an amazing collection of poems posted on the statue of Pasquino. Pasquino is a statue near Piazza Navona that from the mid 15th century to the mid 16th century, people would use as a place to express their political, social, or any other sort of discontent in the form of poetry by attaching their writings to the base of the statue. The poetry would all be anonymous and take on the name of the statue as a sort of literary shield that allowed people to write anything and post it publicly without threat of punishment or censorship. The book we looked at was a collection of published poems that had been collected from the statue and put into a book. It was amazing to see the things we had been studying in our class come to life in these fragile old books. The words we had been reading on rough photocopied paper transformed into the elegant script of a 16th century book.


The other book that we got to see was an extremely old copy of the Book of the Courtier, or Il Libro del Cortigiano by Castiglione. The marble front cover, the old speckled pages, the ornate inside cover, and the script itself were all beautiful. To have read and studied this book, and now see it in its actual 16th century binding and creation was truly an experience. To feel its pages, the slight rise of the printed inky black words, the torn corners, or the fragile binding that took this book beyond literature into a historical work of art in preservation.


I was so grateful for that experience, and it was definitely my favorite site visit of the semester thus far, but then again as an English major I am always biased when it comes to books, especially really old ones. We left the library in a state of awe and contemplation, pulled back from the depths of that silent, warm worldly embrace back out into the noisy bustling world of Rome, like a person being born again into a strange and unnatural world. I almost turned around and went right back into the silent haven of books, but I had to keep going. To let all of the experience sink in I went and got coffee at the well known Sant’Eurstachio Cafe, where I sat outside on the bustling streets of the piazza, watching the world move on around me. Thinking about how different the world before my eyes was than the world inside of the books we had just looked at. And strangely enough, in many odd ways, the worlds, though vast different, didn’t actually seem too far from one another. I could see the lining, the black words in the outlines of every person that walked by, etched into the words that came out of all of their mouths, were the traces of the same words used in those books. It was an interesting time to sit and watch the world, wondering about all that had changed, but also all that had remained the same. IMG_8103


Reading Places

Friday, December 21st, 2012

I spent a lot of time this semester sitting in a library, neck craned, eyes strained, and brain drained. Even though these places are beautiful in their own majestic academic ways, with towering columns that have held up the burdening weight of university, I can’t help but feel closed in by four walls. There is so much outside those tall grandiose windows that let light drift gently in to illuminate the library walls.

I always sit and watch as the library is lit by the dazzling color of sunset as I sat with my textbooks splayed out in front of me like the casualties of war, thinking of the beauty outside the rows and rows of books that lined the world around me. Yet, even as the colors began to fade to a darker shade and slip farther and farther away, I would remain. Instead of taking a breath and leaving behind my books for a moment, I would dive right back in, but my air never lasted sufficiently. It felt like drowning because it was. Diving back down without a replenishing breath of air is a scary thing, yet almost everyone in that library with me was doing it. Gasping like a fish out of water, watching with wide glassy eyes the cast off colors of a sunset sitting right out side, but like the shadows in Plato’s Cave, we tried to draw real light from only the shadows of reality.

I am tired of the shadows of reality, and I have been growing tired because I have drained these shadows dry and am ready, craving for more. So I have abandoned my beautiful little box for the outside world. I have been drinking in the color of every sunset, and finding every place that one can fit themselves only to sit down and read. The familiar is full of fascinating places to explore that function just as well as a library seat for a place to rest my book. Whether it means climbing rooftops or climbing mountains just for a nice place to cross my legs and lay open a book infront of me, I have been exploring in the name of reading. Even if but for a short while to crack open the spine of a book while over looking the Golden Gate Bridge, or just sitting underneath the shade of a great redwood, or sitting on a cliff above the tumultous sea, I am expanding. I am ready for new horizons, if you need me, I will be at the cusp of the ordinary, waiting.