the boxed set is out now! I saw someone had posted pictures of the instructions on the back of it. But I don’t want to give them away here (in case you are the kind of person who likes surprises). It’s really cool.
Really really cool.
I remember when I was working at my first bookstore job in high school (the first of many), during the Christmas season it was an exciting thing to unpack and shelve all of the shiny new boxed sets. I recall a feeling of being invited on a journey. There was a different energy in the store and the promise of immersing yourself into the world of a writer for an extended time. It was more of a commitment to embark on a whole series, you really had to love it and sink yourself into it. And sometimes you would purchase a boxed set just because you loved the author and wanted to have a set that was consistent design-wise. In those days there were often many different cover designs available so it was nice to have ones that matched, (or in a size that matched). Oh, how I coveted my Madelaine L’Engle series.
There are so many things I miss about working in a bookstore around the holidays. The music, the chaos, the challenge of finding that “perfect” book for a customer, or even just finding the one they were looking for. I lived for the “book mysteries” people would bring to you, (“it has a white cover and there is something about a red fish in the title”). I still feel that I had a real gift for this, able to deduce a title from the most obscure clues. One had to be up on the current books though. You had to read the book section of the paper every weekend, and you had to listen to the book shows on the radio. And you had to read as much as humanly possible. For me the reading was like an endless journey through a large forest that you never wanted to leave. Every book was full of new possibilities and many had the potential to change you forever. And they did.
What you don’t think about at the time, or what I didn’t think about is the fact that each book is connects you to a time and place. In this way books are temporal, the experience of reading is a way of marking your days. I was listening recently to a lecture about the future of books by James Bridle and in it he talks about how the book (the artifact) becomes a souvenir, marking the time and your existence. This is why incidentally he thinks that ebooks are not doing so well, they do not offer us a souvenir to remember our experience by.) We associate the object with a memory, and just by picking it up again we are quickly transported back. This explains why it is hard to let go of our favorite books, even when we know they take up too much space on our shelves.
I enjoy thinking about someone opening up one of my boxed sets on Xmas morning and setting off on a slightly strange journey with my ideas. We will become partners of sorts. Maybe they will spill some egg nog onto the pages. The books themselves will become linked to the excitement of the moment. Maybe they will do some of the pages with their family, and have a few laughs in the process.
I would really love it if that happened.