Books are a passport for me to the ages. When I see one standing upon a library or bookstore shelf, I think of the many ideas that lie within and the hours of delightful reverie waiting for anyone who opens it. I think about the source of the title or the development of the plot and wonder how I will react to the story as it unfolds.
Libraries and book stores are warm and inviting places that entice me, beckoning me into their quiet precincts, with many promised hours of transportation to the far reaches of the globe.
I have wandered the mind-world over many times and always come away enriched immeasurably by the experience. Maybe the electronic format will one day replace the paper compendium, but it will be a day that I do not long to experience.
The tactile feeling, of a book in my hands, is for me the imminent sense of launching myself into the greater beyond. I will hold onto the physical form of a book as long as my grasp permits and be rewarded by flights of fancy that I never could have dreamed of by myself.
I can remember checking out my first book from the Cazenovia Public Library as a child. Since those early years, my library card has served as a passport to the imagination that transported me on a magic carpet ride through the ages and across the span of continents. Every library that I enter is a magic portal that will transport me to new worlds and fascinating experiences. The librarians are keepers of the flame that will burn brightly for me and illuminate the ages.
Science fiction captured my imagination early and firmly. Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur Clark, Frank Herbert and many other fabulists still hold my interest. J.K. Rowling is only the latest magical spellbinder.
Whole continents came within my reach from visits to dozens of libraries. Wilbur Smith, Robert Roark and later Clive Cussler introduced me to the mysteries of the “dark continent,” Africa. Pearl Buck, James Clavell and many others delved into the mists of the faraway Orient. Colleen McCullough did a wonderful job showing us Australia.
The world wars of the 20th century proved a mother lode of great story tellers. James Jones, Leon Uris and others held up the tradition of rich narration that showed itself so well in Stephen Crane’s “The Red Badge of Courage.” Many new writers like James Webb and Steven Banko have drawn for us the gripping battle scenes of the Vietnam War and conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
My favorite author is James Michener, whose epic narrative series entertained me with the in-depth histories of many areas of the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean and the Iberian Peninsula. Solzhenitsyn, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Lermontov, Mayakovski and Pushkin played out the full grandeur of the Russian Experience before and after the fall of the tsars.
Edward Rutherfurd has several excellent volumes detailing the history of Britain. C.S. Forrester captured the rule Britannia era with his Hornblower series. Uris, James Joyce, Edward Rutherfurd, Morgan Llewellyn and scores of others revealed the history of those who came before me in the faraway misty isle of Eire.
James T. Farrell, William Martin, William Kennedy, Edwin O’Connor and others shined a sometimes amusing light on the Irish participation in the American political process. A list of offerings, too numerous to mention, detailed the sprawling history of the emerging American continent.
The poets, of course, examine the human condition. Shelly, Keats, Byron and the Lake poets waxed brightly in their lilting poems. Even dour Milton is of interest. Kipling introduced us to the British raj. In America, Wordsworth, Sandberg, Thoreau, Emerson and others speak from the past. Alec Ginsberg, E.E. Cummings, A.E. Robinson and many more take up their tradition in modern times.
I thank them all for their craftsmanship. They have much entertained me these many years and taught me how to connect a few words. I thank them all for their tutelage. God bless them every one, as the esteemed Dickens would say.
I still prowl the library stacks, looking for some undiscovered literary gem that will catapult me into a world or a place that I have not yet been. And I hope to find many more such treasures in the years ahead. I hope you do as well.
Joseph Xavier Martin