Friday, January 31, 2014

How a Fire (Temporarily) Ruined My Reading Life

On the night of January 5-6, I had an apartment fire.  To be more precise, there was a fire that started in the basement in my apartment building that spread to my apartment; I didn't leave the candles burning too long.  This also happened to be a night that was -23ºF/-31ºC, not even factoring in the wind chill, so standing outside in the rain in my pajamas while watching my apartment burn was a lot of fun and really helped me out on an emotional level.

As you might be aware, fire tends to burn things.  That included treasured books, a journal I'd been keeping for about two years, and even my Kindle, among all the other things.  I have been awaiting my insurance payment before I can go and buy a new Kindle, so the books I was reading on there have had to go on hold.  

As it turns out, I read a good percentage of my books on my Kindle.  I suppose I hadn't really thought about it before, but I think more than half of my reading over the past year took place in the Amazon Cloud.  I've adopted that approach for one practical reason: space.  I have absolutely no space left in my home for books, so I really can't keep buying physical copies (even though I do).  I've also found it easier to get copies of eBooks from my local library than physical copies, since the latter so often have longer waiting lists and also laziness.

So without my Kindle, I've been stuck.  I had been in the middle of multiple Kindle books that I've had to put to the side.  I had to let some library holds come and go since I couldn't download them.  My Goodreads page is showing me as being in the middle of eight books, when in reality, I can't easily access the majority of them.  I didn't get my replacement laptop until last week, and trying to read on my phone in bed at night just doesn't quite work for me.  

On top of that, there were the physical books I'd been reading, of course.  And the ones I'd just bought from Everyone's Books.  And the ones I'd just gotten for Christmas.  And on and on.  And I had to try to remember the names of all my books for the insurance claim, as if that's even possible for a voracious reader.  I couldn't even give a number, much less all the names.  I gave what I could, knowing full well that I undervalued my losses, and tried to mentally move on.

So I feel disoriented as a reader right now.  There are unfinished stories that I want to wrap up.  There were waiting lists I'd been on for months and now will have to get back on.  There were imports and special editions that I can't easily track down again.  There are a lot of reading-related problems that I could never have expected when I woke up to the faint scent of something wrong that night.

And even with all the other material losses, it's these problems -- not being able to know what happens next, not knowing where the next page is going, not knowing how the metaphor resolves -- that bother me the most about a fire that ate up my belongings while I stood in the freezing rain and watched.  

And that's how you know you love books.

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