05 August 2010

Books In The Trees

Books in the Trees

As soon as I understood what a book was, I resolved to become a bookkeeper. To the dismay of my parents, I was forever climbing trees in hopes of catching an unwary volume. Of course, I never did; they were far above me, flapping unmolested from branch to branch.

My proudest achievement was to bear back to earth a whole egg, but my pride turned to dismay when my mother scolded me and insisted that I put it back in the nest immediately. "That might be another Calvino or Bulgakov!" she told me. I had no idea what she was talking about, but I made the long climb anyway. (I have a strong suspicion the egg hatched into one of the flock of self-help books that used to stoop upon us as we walked, tangling their claws in our hair.)

It was not until I began my training that I realised how much more was required than the ability to climb trees. There were cliffs, mountains, and sea-stacks to be scaled, of course, but also the myriad arts of classification and cataloguing, acquisition and disposition. The reward for endless hours of drudgery was the swoop of a thriller from a clear blue sky, the heavy "whump" of a fantasy series flying north for the summer, the chirping of young pamphlets in the spring.

I have grown old in the service of these magnificent creatures, but I prepare for my retirement in growing dismay. The age of the book is ending. The wide forests are no more, cut down for wood and land and greed, and the great flocks of books that filled the skies of my youth have dwindled to lone volumes fleeing the hunters. Now all kinds of buzzing, brightly coloured things clamour for our attention, and books are almost forgotten.

In an attempt - perhaps it will prove vain - to preserve what we can, we have trapped many endangered books and placed them in sanctuaries we call "libraries". It breaks my heart to see them trammelled so; yet perhaps I shall live to see the day when booklets bred in these libraries are released back into the wild. May the last sound I hear be the rustle of their leaves.

"Books In The Trees" was first published in Turbine (2002). It is the final story in my short story collection Transported.

Transported cover

You can buy Transported online from Fishpond or New Zealand Books Abroad. You can also read review excerpts and find out more about Transported


Meliors Simms said...

I love this story, just as wonderful on rereading...

Mary McCallum said...

Oh Tim. That is amazing. You have MADE MY DAY. I will link to it now, and buy your book forthwith.

pen said...

I praise your lament, and hang my head in shame — for the obligatory moment. Here's to the riches found in books, by whatever wings they reach us.

Tim Jones said...

Thanks, Meliors, Mary and Penelope!

Mary, that's very kind of you! "Transported" is getting scarce in shops now, so if you have any trouble getting hold of a copy, please let me know - I have some copies available for sale myself.

Penelope, no need to hang your head - after all, this story was first published in an online journal!

ruth whall said...

Thanks so much - a lovely story. You have talked me into having one more try at getting a book published. And of course, catching a fantasy series before it flies north.

AJ Ponder said...

Tim, Mary said this was amazing - and she was right - it's awesome.
(Of course we keep our books in a large friendly aviary surrounded by art and cafes. It's the only way to keep them truly happy :)

Tim Jones said...

Thanks, Ruth and Alicia!

Ruth, I wish you success - do you have the book ready to send to the publisher, or does it need to be written first?

Alicia, I think that's a good arrangement, provided you tell cafe patrons not to feed muffins to the books. It's bad for their digestion, apparently.

Writer said...

Hi Tim,
What a beautiful story. I loved the part where the mother said, "That might be another Calvino or Bulgakov!"
The association of trees and books is perfectly woven with the character's love of books. Bloody clever!

Tim Jones said...

Thanks, Claudia! I'm glad you enjoyed the story, and I appreciate your dropping by to comment.

Claire Beynon said...

Inspired, Tim!
As are the comments, too... I especially love your advice re; not feeding books muffins, it being "bad for their digestion, apparently!"

wv. inegi (the one that contains the Calvino?)