This post is going to be a little different, because I’ve just gotten off holiday traveling and will soon be back on the road again. I’ve found, from my abroad travel as well as my increased air travel to and from school, that my memory of some books are intrinsically tied to the place that I read them.
This is especially true for airports.
Because I have a secret fear of missing a flight, I always get to airports ridiculously early. I also reason that I’ll do a ton of reading. Though this varies in truth, I never don’t have a book in the airport. And when I do get around to reading in the airport, I feel simultaneously immersed in the story and tied to the little bubble of a seat that I carve out there.
I remember reading Fangirl in the Columbus airport and just wanting to curl up next to someone and tell them about this incredible book. I can picture the very uncomfortable plastic chair that sat in, knees up to my chest, as I read of Cath and Levi’s first kiss.
Then, when abroad, there was the time when I was flying back from France to England with two of my friends. I had a copy of A Movable Feast, because we’d visited Shakespeare and Co., and I wanted to be a fancy literary person. I very vividly remember starting that book, reading of Hemingway’s struggles, as my two friends dozed off beside me.
Just this past weekend, I finished The Argonauts—which I will say more on in my next post—in a seat just a few feet away from when I read Fangirl. I finished a very graphic childbirth scene that confirmed all my fears of motherhood while a baggage agent glanced at me every so often. (She was either bored or I was making faces while I read, and I’m worried that it was the ladder.) Only moments after finishing, though, two of my friends found me in the airport, and life went on.
These stories are forever tied to those places, and now, when I see anything about Rowell, or Hemingway, or Nelson, my brain fast connects those people with the images of those very specific seats in those airports.
I cannot remember people’s names, but I can remember these very specific location and can see them in my mind’s eye clearer than I can see some of my fondest memories.
It’s odd, though, right? Because, for the most part, I do not particularly read travel books in airports, so there’s really no reason that these authors should be connected to travel or to these places of travel, but for me, they are and probably always will be. This is neither a good or a bad thing. But it is a thing.
That’s the weird thing about books is that there’s a very physical presence to them, and I think that physically holding those books and sitting in those places helps me to
remember the scenes better—both the scenes of my life and the scenes of the books that I was reading.
Writing my own stuff now, though, is also weird, because those scenes are tied to the places that I came up with them or actually wrote them or threw them out, and that’s weird. Sometimes those places leech into my writing. Sometimes, the poison it, because I’m staring at them and know what they look like but my reader does not. It’s an odd balance—reality and reading—and it’s one that I’m still getting the hang of.
But books belong to their readers, right (shout out to John Green)? So maybe, the weirdness of places and books and memory is all okay in the end.
(Also, special shout out to my mom for sending me pictures of books I have at home. <3)