I can imagine that you have a book or books, lying around where you are, now. A book that you have read, or a book that you’re going to read, or a book that won’t be read.
I remember my first pay packet. It was literally a packet, a brown packet with with cash in it. My wages for the week.
And I remember the first thing I bought with some of the money in the packet, were books. I went to my favourite bookshop in Leicester where I was born and grew up. It was a left wing, arty farty bookshop, and this sixteen plus year old me, excitedly bought his first books with his first wages, and I loved that. And as the years unfolded, I bought more books and continued to buy books, and loved going into bookshops, tracking down books in advance. Not by googling on the internet, but actually you read a book, or you have a book recommended, and one book leads to another book. I love that whole process, of going into bookshops and browsing the shelves, not the Internet, but literally the shelves, and taking a book off the shelf and opening it and seeing the magic and the treasures between the covers and between the lines. I loved all of that, and over the years, I’ve kept a lot of my books, not all of them. We lose books and we lend them, and don’t get them back. And I’ve always tended to obsess a little bit over that. I’ve got all of those books that I no longer have on the bookshelves in my mind. And sometimes they even get replaced and, ridiculous as it is – Yes, I do that.
Anyway, I was browsing through my bookshelves the other day, and I came across a book, a little green book – ‘A Shakespeare Treasury’ embossed in gold, on its cover. And I recalled where I got this book from. I opened it and it has a little sticker inside: ‘This book was purchased at Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford upon Avon.’ And yeah, when I was 10, I went on a school trip with the junior school. We got on the bus and we went to stratford-upon-avon, for the day, and I remember Anne Hathaway’s cottage, and I remember the buildings in particular. I Remember the incredible, undulating wooden floors, totally uneven because these buildings dated back to the 14/15 hundreds. So wood tends to do that. But it was so extreme. I won’t forget that first impression. And afterwards I went to the gift shop and bought a book, (this is the green book) when I was 10. Nothing remarkable in that.
What I find remarkable, astonishing really, is that I got the book when I was 10 and I’m 57 now. So it survived 10 till 17 in Leicester, which is where I lived. And then I moved to London. And in London, I moved at least six, seven, eight times in that time. And then I moved from London to Germany. And in the last 30 years in Germany, I’ve moved another nine or 10 times.
And the Little Green Book has survived all of those moves, and all of those boxes with other books. And it hasn’t got lost. It’s always found its way back on to this or that shelf, which is a great testament, I guess, to the resilience of the book and my attachment to it. Obviously, I must feel some attachment to it, which is great. I’ve tended to love all my books, but this one has risen to the ranks of top ‘book-dom’, for me.
The last page in the book is an extract from the Shakespeare play The Tempest. It’s the extract that focuses on: ‘We are such stuff…’
“Our revels now are ended. These our actors, as I foretold you, were all spirits and are melted into air, into thin air. And like the baseless fabric of this vision. The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples, the great globe itself.Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve. And, like the insubstantial pageant faded,leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”
So … A little green book.