with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

The Stack of Old Books

stack of used books, by Lorelle VanFossen

Among the man-made patterns I love to photograph are books, specifically old books. I love the pattern of them stacked, their cover jackets of different colors, patterns, and textures, especially the older books with their leather and paper bindings.

I think of the hard work that went into designing the colorful covers, the care taken to find the perfect font and collection of images to grab the attention of the passerby and leap off the bookstore shelf into their hands.

As an author, I think of the powerful impact seeing my first book cover on a book that wasn’t self published. I couldn’t believe it. After all the years of self-doubt at being called an author, here I was, a published author. Joy filled me, immediately doused by humility and responsibility. With this book in my hand, I now had to be more than I was. I had to be a real writer. I had to live up to whatever an author was.

This didn’t last long as thirty seconds later I was asked for my first book autograph from Chris and Gorgeous Cree. I signed a book to both of them. They laughed and said that I had to sign two books, one for each of them. I was humiliated, having never thought about autographing my own books, and a part of me wanted to save every single one of them so why give two to a married couple when all they needed was one.

I tucked that book into my bag and signed two fresh copies for them, totally three autographed copies in the first two minutes of experiencing my own book. I still have that original first copy, that’s how stingy and protective I am of my first book. I use it as my proof and edit version. It’s been sliced into individual pages and stuck in a notebook binder and every other page has red marks on it with edits and corrections. I’m working on it right now for the version 2 due out hopefully by the end of the year.

To me, these books represented all those hopes and dreams the authors had. They were all in a pile at a swamp meet market in Mobile, Alabama, looking like they could fall over at any moment. That’s fairly symbolic to me.

One of my favorite quotes by the outrageous Quentin Crisp is:

It’s no good running a pig farm badly for 30 years while saying, ‘Really, I was meant to be a ballet dancer.’ By then, pigs will be your style.

When I look at these books and my own inadequacies in getting my second book out the door, I often wonder if I’m the ballet dancer of the pig farmer.

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