This seems to be the Unpacking Month of mine.
In a month, I read White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh, Unpacking My Library by Walter Benjamin, and Unpacking My Record Collection by Julian Dibbell.
Yesterday, I ‘unpacked’ my little treasure box containing all of my manga collections, not by using physical force to open it but writing a full page long about my early obsession with Japanese comic books, something that I have never told anyone before.
Memories are to be unpacked. That is how memories will be kept forever.
This post is going to be rambling and jumpy as my mind is filled with all haphazard thoughts and stories. Unpacking is a messy process in which random things will suddenly jump out from different corners, attract our attention, invade our mind for a while then be knocked out by others. Just like when we unpack our travel luggage.
I would not call myself a book collector. Perhaps I would never have a chance to put myself into that level because Benjamin has seriously showed me what that title really means. I do not have the so-called ‘tactical instinct’ to chase the smallest antique shop or the most remote stationery store in a strange city with the hope of finding ‘a key position.’
In fact, my instinct is not as strong and good as the instinct of someone like Benjamin. I have always been lured by the cover of the books. This can be briefly concluded as a weak spot of a formal manga addict. There are books that can be ‘nicely dressed’ but ‘ill trained’
However, sometimes this unpleasant instinct of mine brings out surprisingly pleasant outcomes. I have a few interesting books for my little collection after years wandering around the bookstores and persuading myself to believe in the ‘speeches’ of the covers.
What I have realized after reading the two essays is how both Benjamin and Dibbell show their deep affection to their own collections. We all have the feeling of attachment to things that have belonged to us for years. Perhaps Benjamin is right. Ownership is the most intimate relationship that we can have to objects. However, to me, maybe we do not need to be a ‘real’ collector to have such feeling.
I am at home only during the summer. Summer is the time for me to freely sit on the floor, turn my back against the window, look up to my little ‘library’ hanging on the wall, and see the sunshine dance on the colorful covers. It is a great feeling. Seeing my own ‘friends’. We have not talked for a while but they are still there. They are there to always remind me of many memories during my adolescent years because they were there too, as important pieces of my story. For years, I have struggled between keeping them and sending them away to my cousin because I keep buying new books in the summer and there is no available spot on the shelf. However, I have never had the courage to even take them out of the shelf. I have never had the courage to turn away from my old friends. And I will never be able to cut out my memories. The books are my memory keepers. But they themselves are memories too.
Ownership can be the most sophisticated feeling that we can have to objects.