What do books mean to you?
Another long, grey afternoon with nothing much to do. Mamma’s settled in to her lazy boy and her programs, and brother Jimmy is off making time with Deborah Pinson from down the block, or, failing that, Debbie’s little sister, Suzie. And don’t think Mamma doesn’t know what he’s up to either, the dirty-minded little tomcatter. Another one just like his father, Mamma says.
You sneak quietly up the rickety old stairs to the bedroom. You go right to the bookcase. Mamma won’t bother about you long as you don’t make a racket. Anyway, she hasn’t got her self up them stairs for as long as you can remember. You peruse the rows of dusty old tomes, as you’ve done a thousand times before, running your finger along their cracking spines. Still these books hold for you a magical, conspiratorial power. They are all as Daddy left them. Right there on the third shelf is Sometimes a Great Notion by strange old Ken Kesey; next to it is everything by Doctor Thompson; over here, at least a dozen volumes of Bukowski’s rude poetry. Placed intentionally at eye level are Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, and farther west, Goethe, Nietzsche and Kant. Mamma says Daddy couldn’t have read more than the titles of these books. She liked to call Daddy nothing but a good-timing skirt chaser; then she’d accuse him of a dozen other incarnations you wouldn’t dare repeat and completely belie her point. Anyway, you know that whether or not your daddy got through the most scholarly of these books is beside the point. In his own way, your daddy was an artist. His heart was full of love. Even if Mamma says it’s just full of vile pig manure. You know intrinsically that these books represent the highest ambitions of the human soul.
You reach down and pluck a volume from the very bottom shelf, one you’ve never noticed before. You blow off the dust. The Brothers Connolly by Ted Prokash. The cover doesn’t frighten or titillate, but invites you to pore over it, front and back. It makes you feel sort of melancholy but fond. A nostalgic-sweet sadness.
You set down injin style on the rough wood floor, instinctively spreading your skirt out beneath you so as to not collect a splinter in your ne’r do tell. You dive right in. By the time you look up from the book to find the evening’s dusky shadows wearily collecting the last light of day in the sad little tomb of a room, you realize that, once more, your strange and wonderful family has forever been extended.
If I was going to try and answer my own question, that's about the best I could do.