At some point in middle age, I began to experience a deep and dark depression due to what had been lifetime of love. This happened when I came to the realization that those early days of romance were never to return. The boundless sense of opportunity and eternal optimism I had once felt was now a thing of the past. I could revel for a few moments in the memory of those rose-tinted years filled with warmth and affection, only to be reminded that something had gone horribly wrong. The worst part about this lost love was that I could never quite put my finger on the moment when the fiery embers of passion burning between us had been extinguished.
The problems between me and my significant other were insurmountable. Conversations went nowhere, caresses unrequited, and professions of affection were met with silence. My love was giving me the cold shoulder, leading to the realization that I would have to come to terms with this loss or suffer in solitude for the rest of my life. This lost love surrounded me, stalked me day after day. In my home, I could not escape from it. The thought of living without it was unimaginable, while the thought of living with it was tragic. I could not remember what life was like before this love came into my life. I was at a loss on what life would be like with it now gone, if not physically, then spiritually.
Romantic Endeavor – The Travellers’ Dictionary of Quotation
Lifelong Love – An Intellectual Obsession
For years I have been purchasing used books. These purchases have been the byproduct of visits to hundreds of used bookstores across 45 states and a couple of continents. I have never failed to leave these stores without an armload full of books. Even in the used bookstores of foreign countries where there is scarcely any English language literature on offer, I have still managed to find at least one book to purchase. My favorite find occurred at a bookshop in eastern Hungary where after a fruitless search of the stacks, the store’s proprietress managed to excavate an English language volume, “False Tsars”, about pretenders to the Russian throne in the 16th and 17th centuries. I often stare fondly at this slim volume on the shelf where this book now sits. Unfortunately, I have not managed to read it. And that is the problem.
Books have taken over entire rooms in my house, collapsed shelves, piled up in corners, on small tables, beside chairs, beds, and a sofa. There are books everywhere and most of them are on Eastern Europe. I have a deep-rooted fear that without information always close at hand my life will become meaningless. Books by my side, in my hands, under my arms, tucked in my backpack, provide me with a strange sense of comfort. Even the dullest of days can be enlivened with a good book. Books were my first and most lasting love, an escape into another world, filled with facts, where truth stranger than fiction can be found on every page. Books are not just a way of life for me, they are an obsession. Anyone who tells me that love is not an obsession, I will beg to differ.
Heart of the matter – Quotation from Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart
Doing It By The Book – An All or Nothing Mentality
Tragically, my love affair with books is coming to an end. That is because not long ago I realized that there was no way I would ever read all the books I have purchased. For instance, the books I brought back this past summer from a trip to eastern Europe. This means that The Names Heard Long Ago (on the Magic Magyars football team of the 1950’s), Budapest Between East & West, the Blue Guide “Travels In Transylvania: The Greater Tarnava Valley, Prisoners of Geography, and A Short History of Russia among others, will never get the cover to cover reading they deserve. I have read a handful of chapters in these books, but deep down inside I know the truth, my love is not enough to overcome obstacles of distraction. I can no longer have my text and read it too.
An end to this relationship is impossible for me to fathom, instead I am now forced to find a way of moderating the excesses of an all or nothing mentality. Fortunately, I found a ready-made solution sitting on the shelf. One that offers the possibility of helping me through my withdrawal from this lifelong love. Several months ago, while searching the stacks at a used bookstore in Cleveland, I came across The Travellers’ Dictionary of Quotation (Who Said What, About Where?). This is a 1,022-page tome that at first glance I thought was overpriced at twenty-five dollars. That was until I started rifling through page after page of quotations for hundreds of place-based entries. My interest soared when I found that Eastern Europe was thoroughly covered with quotations from many travel books that I had never heard of before.
Incisive and illuminating – Karl Baedeker on Kyiv
Between Two Covers – Sources of Illumination
The Dictionary has two traits that can only be found in the very best of reference books. The first are entries that could stand on their own as sources of illumination. No matter if they are short and incisive sentences that reveal the essence of a place or longer entries which provid deeper insight. One of my favorites concerned the Poles. “The Poles are the worst kind of deceivers, for they succeed in deceiving themselves” – Sir Bruce Lockhart. Diary, January 6, 1944. The date is just as critical as Lockhart’s words. 1944 was a decisive year in the history of Poland, when the hope of being on the victorious side in World War II turned to bitterness as the Warsaw Uprising was put down by the German Army, while the Red Army stood by and did nothing. The illumination gleaned from this single sentence is more revealing and memorable than an entire book of geopolitical analysis.
The second trait is the cross referencing of sources. One of the finest examples concerned Kyiv, which was referred to by an old nickname as “the Jerusalem of Russia.” This quotation came from Baedeker’s Guide to Russia with Tehran, Port Arthur and Peking, 1914. Fortunately, I have a copy of that work in my library. This sent me searching within that volume for more sentences of enlightenment. The Dictionary has renewed a lost love, or at least the fragments of it that I can piece together into a coherent affair. One illuminating quote such as Lockhart’s can serve as a sort of first kiss. Another, like Baedeker’s leads to places of passion I never thought possible. Romance is something I would rather have as a journey than a destination. A relationship, whether it is with books or significant others, can take us on journeys beyond imagination. Love is time and place measured by the heart, so is travel, especially when it is done between two covers. I have lost one love, but in the process discovered another.
Click here for: Time Flowing Backwards – The Danube by Emil Lengyel (A Trip Around My Bookshelf #12a)