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Chomping on the Bit


Maybe it's in poor taste, but I just need to rub my fingers together a little and cackle. It's been 42 days since Ash Wednesday, since I decided to give up buying books for Lent. Several years ago, I read that Lauren Winner gave up reading books for Lent and I thought that might be a severe enough discipline for me to undertake. Then I imagined how wretchedly I would behave, how my mind and eyes would atrophy, how all my worst habits would appear, how my community would suffer. Also, how I would be a terrible bookseller.

So, I gave up buying books. Perhaps it doesn't seem like a big deal. But listen, I have an addiction. I buy at the very least two books a week, and have since I moved to Seattle last June. On those days I go to Goodwill, many many more. Buying books has always been a rush, an ecstatic burst of energy and enjoyment: bright eyes, sporadic conversation, constant touching the book covers, smelling the pages. There are worse things to be addicted to, and I find people with vices interesting and companionable. But still, I wanted to see if I could discipline myself to deny that rush for Lent. (This was when I thought that Lent was supposed to be 40 days, before I knew I had been tricked by 2009, which causes Lent to be a total of 46 days.)

But now, as we are in Holy Week approaching the big day, I think ahead in anticipation - to the early breakfast with friends, the celebrative high point of the Christian year, and to buying a copy of Ted Hughes' The Birthday Letters. I also look to the future with a sense of dread. I can easily say no to buying books now on principle. It will be harder when I have moderation and economy, and not Lent, to blame. I reflect, also, on the time I have recently spent without purchasing books. The difficult trips to Magus Books to window shop, my new love of the Seattle Public Library and it's magnificent collection of circulating books, reading books that had been gathering dust on my shelves.

So, I'm almost there. Holding thumbs, there's only three days to go. A happy rainy Easter to all.

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