My Private Library
You may as well call me a bookworm. I have books everywhere in my home – in the drawing room and the bedroom, on either side of the staircase, and even in the bathroom on the third floor. So it’s next to impossible for me to point out exactly where my study is. Maybe it’s the room next to my bedroom. In the middle of it stands nothing but a desk piled high with lots of books so that there is practically no room for me to place my writing paper and the inkstone. The inkstone is indispensable to me because I always use a writing brush instead of a pen in doing my writing. I find the pen too slippery and moving a bit too fast, thus leaving little time for me to do more thinking. I prefer the writing brush because I can always keep pace with it. Though it sometimes may also move along a bit too fast, yet I can always catch up. There are only two armchairs in the room plus a bookcase holding my most favorite books, which are not to be borrowed by anybody. Hanging on the wall is a painting of narcissi done with light touches of ink imparting an air of moral superiority. Occasionally, while I am reading, I suddenly realize I’ll soon face penury. Then the painting will cheer me up with bright hopes. On several nights, I just sat in this room staring at it blankly.
The little room is about 5 meters in length and 3 meters in width. I keep all books on modern poetry there. Then the bookcase is full, I put them on the desk. Then the desk is full, I pile them up on the chairs. When the chairs are full, I pile them up on the floor. I never sort them out. I lay aside casually new acquisitions as well as books I’ve just finished reading. Consequently, it often takes me couple of hours to hunt down a book for reference when I am writing.
Generally speaking, with so many rooms for storing books, one will assign to each an elegant name, to be inscribed on a horizontal board hung above the door, partly for show and partly for convenience. I, nevertheless, have never been in a mood for doing the same. I just call the above-mentioned room “Upstairs Study”, the room downstairs “Downstairs Study” and the bathroom on the third floor “Third-floor Study”.
Since I usually read and write at night, you’ll often find me sitting in the “Upstairs Study” because it is close to my bedroom. When I feel drowsy, I can easily reach my bed only a few steps away. But you’ll find me in the spacious “Downstairs Study” instead when I’m to spend the whole night writing. There I can cough or strike a match without disturbing my folks in their sleep. At daybreak, I will heat up milk for myself or walk to an alley on the opposite side of the street to buy some fried bean curd for breakfast – all done without making a nuisance of myself. I’m seldom at home in the daytime. But, I’ll start reading soon after I come back. Then I’ll be suddenly interrupted by phone calls from editor-friends asking for my contributions. They know that I, out of compassion for editors, will never decline to dash off an article of two to three thousand words.
At any rate, I’m inseparable from my library. But none of my three studies makes me feel comfortable except when I’m completely absorbed in reading or writing. My ideal study should be roomy enough for holding twenty bookcases and have air-conditioning. And there should be a large desk there with enough space for books and writing paper to be jumbled up in piles on either side and for writing brush, inkstone, writing paper and so on to be placed in the middle. This is of course nothing but my wishful thinking. I have neither money to own such a roomy study, nor talent for creating masterpieces. Nevertheless, the extravagant hope brings me consolation all the same. It’s sort of encouragement too.
But, anyway I can’t work efficiently in the daytime. The “Upstairs Study” is too much lit up by the sun, so that I get a headache after staying there a bit too long. And a thick window curtain would only make the room stuffy. The “Downstairs Study” is in fact a drawing room-cum-study. I have frequent visitors. When they call, I have to break off writing to the discomfort of both parties. I’m in the bad habit of finishing my article at one go like when I eat a meal. Once interrupted, I just can’t resume eating. Once, while writing an article on modern poetry, I was interrupted by a friend visiting. As a result, the article remains unfinished even today. Therefore, a newspaper editor would inevitably end up in trouble if he should entrust me with the job of writing a serialized novel for his supplement. But, when I write at night, the day seems to break sooner than I think. And one sleepless night will make me feel tired for three days on end and often suffer from a headache. When I go to see a doctor, he will just sigh with a frown. As to the “Third-floor Study”, a bed has now been placed there for my younger male cousin. So I seldom go there unless when I need a book.
In fact, I shouldn’t have complaints about my studies. Small as they are, they are tolerable. Since I moved to the present lodgings in the autumn of last year, I’ve produced writings, under my real name or a pseudonym, totaling about 150,000 words.