Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Living Room Library

We've just finished putting up new bookshelves at home. We unpacked all sorts of stuff: encyclopedias, medical journals, novels, and non-fiction books on everything - business, religion, politics, animals, the Italian aristocracy, cooking, history, astronomy, ... well, you get the picture. I'm seriously thinking about organising them somehow (think Dewey Decimal System) and keeping an updated file on the hard drive. We already have an incomplete list (started by my daughters a few years ago on a boring, rainy afternoon) but it really needs to be updated and searchable.

Most of our books are in English or Italian, but I did find a few in French and one or two in Chinese (I think). Those are for decoration, I'm sure. They really are pretty, but I have no idea what they're about.

I picked up a historical novel to read called Il Tempio della Luce by Daniela Piazza. It's in Italian, and I don't know if it has been translated because it came out in 2012. It's set in medieval Milan during the period the Duomo was built. The central cathedral is a massive Gothic church that was begun in 1387 and has actually never been finished. There is a still a company that manages repairs and renovation, so it's considered to be an ongoing enterprise. In fact, the Milanese have a saying that compares monumental jobs or tasks that never seem to be finished to this "Duomo Factory".

Il Tempio della Luce is set in the mid 1400s and tells the story of a boy who is supposedly the rightful heir of the dukedom and the priests who take him in and raise him. The religious order overseeing the cathedral's completion are devoted to a goddess, who they recognize as the Virgin Mary. They raise their young charge to accept his rightful vocation as leader of Milan, and also as a member of their secret society. The descriptions of the medieval city and its politics, and the intertwined aspects of Celtic mythology and Christian tradition give the story a feeling of authenticity and mystery.

I'm enjoying it, and I'll admit that curiosity has gotten the better of me so I've taken the time to check a few facts and dates. So far, what I've checked has checked out as it should. When I finish it, I'll let you know what I think.

It's really nice to go into the room and look at all of the different titles. Our books are a collection of different historical periods and genres. I don't believe in throwing books away. When they are no longer wanted, they should be given to someone else. A book never goes out of style, it just gets put on a shelf for a while. These old stories give us a glimpse into our own past, and let us contemplate the psychology and grammatical choices of past generations.

I've decided to read them all - one by one - just because they're there. I've also decided to share my opinions about them - just to write something.

People who read live hundred of lives in thousands of different places. We do everything, and experience all kinds of situations. We learn and grow through the experiences of others - be they real people or fictitious characters. We become depositories of collective knowledge and vessels filled with the wisdom of the ages.

And we learn how to string melodramatic sentences too.  :-)