Friday, September 30, 2011

High school senior LIly Gentner, a neighbor and valued customer, is applying for admission to some prestigious colleges. She's at the top of her class at Lane Tech, a gigundous high school just down the street. Clearly, Lane does not have a history of cinema requirement where Lily would have run across Howie Morris in his High Anxiety role. Otherwise she would have been sensitized to the use of the shibboleth in this essay, written by her, submitted with the applications, and reproduced as follows with our best wishes.

Lily's essay: "I am not a fan of new books; I don’t understand why anyone would pay extra for a book with no character. My nerdy side, pretty much my only side, enjoys sitting on my front porch with a book, surrounded by nighttime summer humidity. There is a tiny store, just a short bike ride away, where these porch-companions stay, waiting to complete their transition from another reader’s home into mine.

Even after dozens of visits, I still don’t know what the store is called; the front windows are always too completely filled with books to make room for a sign. Visible from across the street, these books nearly always succeed in calling me through the front door and away from my intended destination. Just inside, seated behind a counter and engulfed in books, resides the owner, a little old man with a welcoming smile and a tired dog. I step past its sleeping head and into a warm, thick blanket of books.

The walls, although they must have passed some kind of building inspection, seem to be made solely out of old hardcover books- the kind with ridged spines and small, gold titles printed horizontally. The aisles, barely wide enough to walk through with a backpack, will wrap their arms around you as your eyes flit from title to title and shelf to shelf. The shelves themselves, however, are hidden, swallowed by the very books they support. The place is pleasantly overgrown, just as ivy covers an old brick wall. "

I usually begin with the shelf devoted to classics. On a good day, there won’t be anyone trying to squeeze past me to the door, and I’ll be left to peruse my titles in peace. A deep breath makes apparent the pervading scent of literature. The smell of clauses, punctuation, and the yellowing pages on which they dwell travels up my nose and brings forth a feeling like that provided by the heated air of a Christmastime home. I run my fingers over the tightly packed titles, their varying sizes making for a bumpy trail. I glance across the rows, sometimes removing a layer of books to see the one behind it; eventually, though, something will snag my attention. The sound of its cover as it slides past the others and into my ready hand makes me even more appreciative of the absence of background-music and bustling crowds.

While I read my purchases (almost always more than I had intended to make), I note the phrases underlined by previous owners, I feel the spine that has been creased by the love of another reader, and I enjoy the thought that the book once lived on another bedside table, but has found its way onto mine. As I flip the already-turned pages toward conclusion, I begin to anticipate another visit to my tiny, favorite store. "

1 comment:

lisacline said...

Go Lily!
"Even after dozens of visits, I still don’t know what the store is called." Good point - my brain registers it as either "the red-signed-OPEN" bookstore or the silent "closed."