Monday, September 10, 2012

Sublime Foolery

After this entry, a dear friend offered a quote by Ray Bradbury:
“If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads. I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.” --Ray Bradbury, 

 which tickled every fold of my brain, in particular the line:
You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads.

The first library I lurked in was at the Karachi Gymkhana. I spent hours, days, years among close friends: Famous Five, Secret Seven, and on less intellectual days, Archie and the gang. It was there that I climbed the stacks like ladders, in particular the one closest to the window. At the top, I hid my favorite book (the cover bore a terribly racist depiction of Chinese men peeking out from straw barrels) so that it would still be there when I returned and I would not face the stress of an absent friend.

In Canada, the bookshelves weren't as exciting to climb but the lending limit (twenty-five glorious books at once) more than made up for it. In fact, I lurked about these shelves so much that when I applied for a job there in my early twenties, it was a no-brainer for the librarian, who had watched me grow up and had no doubt of my bookworminess.

The most titillating library I ever visited was when I came full circle back to Karachi in 2002.

I'm sure my cousin thought it would be a quick round of Frere Hall when he pulled up to its gates to show us the famous heritage building. He probably didn't expect me to actually enter the small library tucked behind the structure. He certainly didn't expect me to march on in and make myself at home.

But my feet moved of their own accord, delighting in the rickety wooden floors, the shafts of sun streaking into high up windows, lazy dust motes nearly still in the calm of the room. I passed rows of men reading the paper at heavy tables, vaguely processing that I was the only female in there, that all eyes were on me, but my feet had found their destination.

I climbed the circular stairs which groaned under my weight from years of disuse (or possibly my increased paratha/biryani/kulfi intake). I ran a finger along the endless leather bound volumes, pulled one out, breathed in the musty perfume.

A frantic librarian chased me back down- the upstairs is off limits madam- and as he escorted me swiftly to the exit, I inhaled one last time the musty air, filled my lungs till they hurt so I could carry it with me, reveling in my sublime foolery.