England by the book(s)

England by the book(s)

All these bookshops are going to kill me.

London is a bibliophile’s nightmare dressed like a daydream. The infinite amount of beautiful books I want to buy can’t be supported by the finite supply of money in my bank account, not to mention the fact that airlines insist your luggage must weigh 50 pounds or less. Yesterday I crammed all my books into my suitcase, just to see how much room they would take up, never mind the weight. As I stacked each book, I reminded myself of these important things:

1. It’s not like all these books are for me. I have five family members, and I’ve bought books for all of them, which, really, is the least I can do considering how generous my parents were about helping me to pay for this trip.

2. And the books that are for me I totally couldn’t get in the United States. They were not impulse buys. I left that beautiful copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the store, remember? If I truly lacked self-control, I would have bought it instead of abandoning it like my first-born in the wilderness.

3. Books are incredible and deserve to have a loving home.

4. It’s better to stock up on books than what most people buy when they visit Europe (wine, opium, prostitutes, etc.). Everyone should just be really proud that I’m not addicted to opium, OK?

5. God help me.

Luckily my dad is picking me up and can bring an extra-large suitcase to carry all this weight, but that doesn’t help me with the looming problem that I still have a week in this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England, and all I want to do is go out and find more bookshops. Loving literature can be very aggravating. As I write this, I look around – I’m in the front room of the flat I share with the rest of my group – and I’m surrounded by other English majors wolfing down books. Max has been working on Anna Karenina for the last month, Sally is reading The Time Machine, and Anne has been burning through Carol Ann Duffy poetry anthologies ever since I read “Delilah” aloud while we were picnicking in the park. I can’t help but feel they maybe should have warned us. Paisley and Lela, our professors, should have told us to pack only a change of clothes and a toothbrush so we could fit all the books. Dragging a bunch of English majors to the Motherland of fantastic literature could only end in tears – didn’t they know that?

In the last month, I’ve visited The Elephant House, the Edinburgh café where J.K. Rowling first started jotting down the first drafts of Harry Potter on napkins; the Eagle and Child, the pub in Oxford where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien used to meet up with their friends; seen Shakespeare performed in The Globe; and visited Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey. I’m not much of a crier, but I almost wept while standing on Charles Dickens’ grave. This is the country that birthed a baffling amount of fantastic literature in the English language; this is where Wordsworth wrote about the daffodils, where Bronte’s Heathcliff wandered over lonely moors, where J.M. Barrie first conceived of a little boy who flies instead of growing up. This is where Alice fell through a rabbit-hole, where Elizabeth met Darcy, where Harry first boarded the Hogwarts Express. You can’t help but respect this kind of power, where something in the air or water inspires an incredible beauty of language and story. This blessed plot indeed.

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English teachers have been saying for a long time that I should go to England, but it sort of took actually coming here to get it. I’m not easily impressed, and I figured the whatever-it-is in the air or water wouldn’t get to me. But I was sitting by the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens a few days ago, and I was thinking about Neverland and ticking crocodiles, and how tragic Captain Hook is, and it occurred to me that I would trade all the books I’ve ever bought just to stay here a little longer.

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How is it possible that I only have a week left?

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