Our library’s diminution

Post 39/2021 Thursday 23 September . . . The sky wept a little yesterday. I made coffee. Going outside called for wearing a jacket. It was the last day of summer, the first day of fall. Fall in the northern hemisphere started with the autumnal equinox on Wednesday, September 22 at 3:21 pm Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) / 7:21 pm Universal Time Coordinated (UTC).

Joe Springer would come at 9:30 am to select from among the books we were giving away, soothing ourselves by saying, “Goodbye / au revoir. Bon voyage.”

Happily, Joe, curator of the Mennonite Historical Library at Goshen College, took many of the Anabaptist and Mennonite books, some destined for other collections. Later that day, we took five heavy boxes to Fables Books in Goshen.

I’m so glad that this book, published by the Mennonite Publishing Company in 1899, is now in the hands of the Mennonite Historical Library. John F. Funk loomed large in Mennonite Church leadership in the 19th century, including through the Mennonite Publishing Company he set up in Elkhart, Indiana following a stint in the lumber business and establishing this company in Chicago. John and Salome Funk moved the company to Elkhart a few years before the 1871 Chicago Fire.

This copy of Funk Family History survived the fire that destroyed the John F. Funk business in Elkhart in 1907, the marks of the fire visible on the cover and bottom pages. “A BRIEF HISTORY is almost a misnomer for such a thick volume. Go MHL!

Further reduction

A smaller personal collection of books feels liberating, though I have yet to find the words to express the pleasure tinged with sadness that comes with the parting. Sadness stands sentry within, even as I am buoyed with a sense of satisfaction, relief, completion, mission accomplished, euphoria even. For certain, it’s a happy dispersion of books, with a goodly number of literary friends still surrounding us.

We have a few more books to deal with–how do you say goodbye to a friend? Still, the major part of the task is done, finished, out-the-door, our “treasures” on their way to new readers, new collectors, new friends. New life for old books; old books for new life.

Joe Springer said we could have had a drop-in book giveaway party. True, but I’m happy with the quick, few-second-thoughts, diminution of our collection. Long live good books and their readers!

Fall at Greencroft

Sunset last Sunday evening.
A niche focal point in our home.

What I’m reading

The Paris Library, a novel by Janet Skeslien Charles (Atria Books, 2021). The book opens in Paris, February 1939. Odile Souchet is getting ready for a job interview at the American Library in Paris. The Dewey Decimal System numbers she had memorized in grad school “represented freedom, the future.”

Odile gets the job. She befriends Margaret, spouse of an attaché with the British embassy. Through her perceptive encouragement, Odile helps Margaret for the first time feel at home in Paris. Before, when Margaret and her husband left London, “she’d fallen off the face of their earth.”

Hitler will soon invade France. Losses will mount left and right. What will remain at the end of the war?

Fast forward to Montana 1983. Lily, a teenager, gets to know her elderly neighbor from Paris, Odile Gustafson. Flyleaf: “A powerful novel that explores the consequences of our choices and the relationships that make us who we are–family, friends, and favorite authors–The Paris Library illuminates a little-known corner of history where a passion for literature inspired extraordinary acts of courage and love.”

I’ve only covered 82 pages of this 352-page book and I’m smitten. Just as I was eventually taken in by The Children’s Train, by Viola Ardone (set in Naples after World War II, last week’s blog). What is said of The Paris Library can be said of many of the books we read, “The Paris Library is an unforgettable story of friendship, family, romance, and the power of literature to bring us together.”

Keep bringing us together, dear books. Pray that soon and very soon we will get closer together.

Cicero said, “A home without books is like a body without soul.” Horace Mann: “A home without books is like a room without windows.” Between the covers of a book, one can get lost in the most wonderful, window-opening resolution of sorrow, joy, passion, love, mystery, intrigue, mistakes, successes.

All that in a book? Verily, one finds all that in a book. Thank you, writers, illustrators, translators, publishers, marketers, retailers, teachers, storytellers, public libraries, teachers, curators–books-passionate people all!

-John

7 thoughts on “Our library’s diminution

  1. The Paris Library sits on my bookshelf now, a book that I couldn’t put down a month ago. I’m always interested in historical fiction. After having lived near Paris over 30 years ago many of my go to reads usually have the setting somewhere in France. Just started The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray.
    Kaye

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    1. Ah, to be in Paris and not to be run down by racing traffic. I was so fond of sitting at a sidewalk café and having a coffee au lait and croissant. And onion soup.

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  2. On one of my first days of working under your supervision in Elkhart in 1978, we walked a block or two to see the building that was once John Funk’s place of business. It was about to be torn down. I hope that the details of that memory are correct!

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    1. Indeed, Steve, that was the MPCo building that I got permission to removed some of the items from the second floor and the second basement under the sidewalk (the family history came from Henry Mumaw, a nephew of Dr. Henry Mumaw, also a figure about town and church back in the day). The site is now a plaza with an adjacent park. What wonderful memoires of being a colleague of yours in Elkhart.

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      1. Yes, such good memories of working in the former Hotel Elkhart on Main Street, and attending the church that John Funk helped establish.

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