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A Man Of All Books: Gardens Carried In His Pocket

Monday 19 February 2018 at 12:02 am.

This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for February 15, 2018, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.

            “Wear the old coat and buy the new book,” counsels Austin Phelps. I followed that advice all my life, -- only, whenever I could, I bought used books.

            My love affair with the printed word began when, as a child, I would read, because we owned so few books, the family dictionary, from cover to cover. As one who loves to read, I find it difficult to understand anyone who hates reading and has never read a book.

            It’s probably not surprising that a person who has a passion for reading books would also have a great longing to write a book, a longing that I recently was able to fulfill. Hopefully my book, IT MUST BE THE NOODLES: GROWING UP WENDISH IN RURAL TEXAS, will be on sale soon.

            As I await the public debut of my book, I continue to have many pleasant reading encounters with good books. I’m almost finished reading Romanov Riches by Solomon Volkov, a very fine book that is actually about the writers and artists under the various Russian Czars. Although I’m not an admirer of present-day Russia, I believe Russian authors like Tolstoy, Pushkin, Chekhov, Zhukovsky, Dostoevsky, etc., are among the greatest writers in the world.

            At the same time, I am reading The Poetry of Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem, and I do believe Frost is right up there with Pushkin and Zhukovsky as one of the world’s greatest poets.

            The latest book to arrive for my reading pleasure is Five Centuries: The Wends and the Reformation, published by Concordia University Press, Austin, and The Wendish Press, Serbin. This book not only helps to appease my obsessive reading hunger but also helps sate my excessive appetite for Wendish history. If your reading ability is in its infancy, and your interest in Slavic culture non-existent, this might not be tasty cuisine for you. It’s not exactly “popular culture” like my “Noodles” book. But if you like scholarly writings on history, this should be your bouffage.

            It’s probably no accident that I have a daughter who continues to work as a book designer in New York. She has one of the most enthralling jobs available to humankind, and I admire her work greatly, just as I value the work of book designers everywhere. And I hate seeing a poorly designed book, which is almost as bad as a poorly written book

            Recently, in the process of moving to a new office, Rae Ann or Rae (as she’s known in New York) shipped us a box full of “dummy” books. These are books with blank covers and blank pages of all sizes and shapes. All of them are blank, and the pages and covers are all white. So when I opened the box, I thought, “Wow! A box of ‘ghost books’!” There were enough “ghost books” for all of us, including my granddaughters. Avery, our budding writer of stories and poems, is particularly excited about this box of books ready to be written, and is ready to use one of them for her first novel.

            No one of course is any more excited than this old man who loved books so much he read dictionaries as a child! As a bibliophile (collects books), book-lover (loves books), bookworm (eats books), bibliophagist (devours books), epeolatrist (worships words), and a scripturient (passionately loves to write), I can’t tell you how thrilled I was about receiving these “ghost books”! They were blank pages to be filled up with words, words, and more words, but even more important, although blank, they are symbols of who I am, what I do, and what I will always love doing.

            There is an old Chinese proverb which says, “A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.” That is so true, whether it is a garden plowed and planted by you, or a garden plowed and planted by someone else! An enchanted garden that never withers!

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Ray Spitzenberger is a free-lance writer and artist who lives in East Bernard with his beautiful wife Peggy and spoiled cat Gatsby.

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