New York: A Song inside a house of books

My brother and sister-in-law’s house is filled with books. Books are stacked in neat piles everywhere, left exposed like delicious pieces of fruit a passerby might want to stop, smell, and taste and then put down. Novels, histories, memoirs, literary studies are stacked on tables. ottomans, and the shoulders of the couch, piled high in front of the stuffed shelves of the bookcases. Each room has a bookcase, and each bookcase is as full and overstuffed as a record files in a doctor’s office, volumes bursting out of their places crammed in beside each other. Beside each pile of adult books is another, correspondingly small, stack of children’s books. Dr. Seuss, David McCauley and books about trains wait beside volumes of Lemony Snicket, Louis Sachar, and silly Judy Moody.
Everyone in this family loves books: when I come to visit, I bring books to read and the names of books my brother and his wife might like; they in turn, press books on me like sips of a delicate wine, first inquiring if I had read a particular author or book, then pulling it out from the enormous stack and delicately offering to let me read a copy while I am in town. “You can’t borrow this, I don’t let it out of the apartment,” my sister-in-law says about a Natalia Ginsburg book I say I have never read. “Hi, where is my Charles Willesford book? I have to have it back,” is my brother’s greeting when he comes home late in the evening and we are all slung out across the living room, talking about–what else?–books.
Ralph manages a therapy program, Amy is a writer and editor, but the love they have for words goes beyond their work. Like Kabbalists, for them the power of words to color reality–to literally add weight and heft to the air–is real. Feelings about book make a vivid music that plays inside their heads as they go about daily routines of feeding the kids, taking them to school, going to work, getting groceries, doing homework and getting them into bed every night,
As a booklover who lives with two people with no special passion for books, staying with my brother and his family often feels like an excursion into the (rare)hothouse of a life filled with literature, a mindset I once wanted to have before I moved on to more worldly things.
As we sit in the cushy chairs and talk in low voices, discussing books we’ve read and what we thought of them, their power to transform or amaze us, we’re singing really, singing a tune whose unspoken refrain is I love you, I miss you, even though you are 3,000 miles away but there is a strong connection between us of feeling and ideas that will not break, will not fail, so please, hold the connection, do not let go.
Every book title we exchange, every volume we pull out to discuss, is a fiber in a rope holding us together, just as it holds them safe.