The Scent of Old Literature

Jedediah Bila

By Jedediah Bila, Author and Political Commentator

I walked into an old bookstore in Midtown Manhattan on my lunch break this afternoon.  The moment my feet hit the weathered carpeting, I took a deep breath and felt years of history nourish me.  The scent of tired pages filled with love, loss, and longing took hold of me quickly, and I welcomed the voyage.  I ran my fingers gently over the weary covers, whose imperfections housed an honesty that made us instant friends.  I sat on a small stool in the corner, grabbed a random book from the shelf, and began reading.  As I turned the first few pages, I could effortlessly see the man who had written those words, his inkwell and feather pen the inspiration for the website I now call my own.  I could hear him humming Chopin like he said he often did, smell the pot roast cooking in his kitchen, see him toss another log on the fire as he ventured inside himself and continued his journey…our journey.

I gazed up at the rows of books and felt sad for America’s youth.  Sure, they have high-tech laptops.  But would they ever know the intimacy of writing or reading that first handwritten love letter that brought you to life in ways an email never could?  They have iPods that can store thousands upon thousands of songs, but would they know the music that only an old record player can bring to life?  There’s just something about that sound that’s different.  And now they have the Kindle.  They can read the best and brightest from the literary world without ever having to open a book.  But do they know that scent…the scent of old literature…and what it can do for the soul?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the progress that technology has brought us.  In fact, I have a netbook, a BlackBerry, and an iPod.  I know that in the fast-paced world we live in, you sometimes have to jump on board so you don’t get left behind.  I couldn’t bring you my words right here and now otherwise.  But I also know the difference.  I know that no iPod or Kindle will ever touch the heart in quite the same way as that little old bookstore I entered today.

I was lucky enough to be raised in a house where history’s gems always found a home.  It gave me an infinite appreciation for all that is authentic in this life…for those who say what they mean and mean what they say, for honest conversations, for simplicity and substance over ornamentation and fancy displays.  That includes my politics.  I can’t help but fear that because our youth may never experience that old world richness, they also may not possess the ability to quickly uncover an illusion and see it for what it really is.  We all know where that can lead us.

I think that one of the greatest gifts parents can give their children is to bring them back every now and then to a time when life was a little simpler on the outside, when people spoke from the heart and there was no TV to flash their pretty pictures or spiffy wardrobes and hence distract others from the crux of what they were saying.  Read your children an antique book and let them touch the pages.  Let them hear the music from a busted up old record player in your attic.  Help them discover the parts of themselves that will compel them to cherish genuineness and to elect leaders who will manifest it.  Maybe they’ll even become those leaders one day.

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12 years ago

Wonderful story that takes you to a place where life is more real and simpler.

Robert Schneider II
12 years ago

Awareness anew of senses; mine all of them, opened by your words visiting paper bound up and sound on vinyl… Acknowledgement of duty to pass to learning minds the truth, value and liberty hidden softly in places available to older mentors… Thank-you Ms. Bila… I promise to keep savoring your flavor in prose…

12 years ago

I love reading old books they tell of our past and are very interesting

12 years ago

I am elderly,93 years old.My memories go back to the great depression that really began after Herbert hoover was elected president.Hoover was not a politician,but I think was an engineer.He was republican with a democratic congress.I might be in error with some of this,for it was so long ago.I must stop.I seem to be out of space.

Jodee from Ohio
12 years ago

As a young person, I would sit spellbound in my grandparents’ living room and listen to my grandfather and my great uncle talk about their “railroad days” and point out many of the things that were wrong with them. I remember visiting that great uncle’s house and being mesmerized by the knitting and crocheting talents of my great aunt as she copied (both color & pattern) the hat Doris Day sported on the cover of a magazine. I know because I asked her where the pattern was, to which she replied, “What pattern?”

I remember the 3/4 acre my paternal grandparents last lived on, and how it included a greenhouse and a well-supplied tool shed. The land that extended beyond the garage/tool building had a full, lovely and varied flower garden on the right. On the left, was where multiple vegetable, tomato and melon plants grew. I can still remember the lazy days of summer mornings and afternoons when drivers would stop to buy tomatoes, cucumbers, apples or pears from the Walmo Gardens in Pennsylvania. Equally possible, was a car appearing in my grandparents’ driveway after Saturday supper and a man or woman would come to the back door to inquire if my grandmother could put together a flower arrangement for Sunday morning’s church service. They always managed to leave with a smile as they clutched the newspaper filled with both variety of style and color in a flower bouquet.

At the back of the gardens, were a variety of fruit trees. We, the grandchildren, could play outside and appeal to those trees for sweet nourishment when we were hungry. We could choose from red, green or golden apples. Also included in the were pear and peach trees. When I was young, I guess I thought this was fairly common for most all children. Now that I am all grown up and our children are too, I realize the great wealth that was afforded us.

It wasn’t easy at the time to be patient and to cope with waiting while my parents were visiting family. However, with just a little exercise of patience, I learned many fascinating things from the older people in my life. Many times they gave me respect and admiration for older people – by their gifts, or a listening ear, sharing a book, or hearing their stories to understand the world in earlier times from their perspective.

With just a few of these expressed thoughts or reflection, it is my hope that not all of today’s young people think that the best advice or wisdom comes from their peers. That would be a considerable loss!!!

However, now with times getting tougher, how I wish that I had a house with some land so that I now could grow vegetables, fruits and other things to help with our food supply. But growing up, I lived in the city and now I live in the city and am removed from any hint of an agrarian lifestyle.

I agree that it’s important for young people to be afforded the rich things of life, not just the latest technology toys. Thank you for your article.

10 years ago

Most health inarusnce providers mail the subscriber an explanation of payment and or benefits. It will show the doctors name but usually do not include a lot of detail as to the service provided. It will most likley show up as an office visit.

12 years ago

Wonderful! I felt like I was right with you as you sat in that library and our minds one, reliving the memories of our youth! I own a kindle, and still find my self reading paperback books. Keep writing!

12 years ago

You took your reader along for the ride, the way fine writing should do. I will definitely peruse your website & follow your work – thank you for the inspiring article.

12 years ago

Very special article.There is no substitute for holding and reading a great book. Thank you for putting it in such beautiful words.

Oh Gee
12 years ago

Wonderful article. In this fast paced world it is nice to receive a touch of reality. Keep it up Jedediah!

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