I took a trip to a classic metropolitan bookstore today. I hate to say which one, because it made me a little sad. The shelves weren't as full as they once were, and the selection held no surprises. The likes of Amazon, eBay, and Alibris have changed the book lover's experience substantially in the last decade or so, and the rise of the e-book is on the verge of changing it even more.
I was reminded of an exchange between Barin, Aura, and Zarkov in that silly old Flash Gordon movie with the Queen soundtrack, in which a conversation on the spiritual conversions of Barin and Aura ends with Zarkov declaring, "A-ha! I thought it was one of the prime numbers in the zenith series! I haven't changed!" Because despite the world spinning on as it must, I found that, like Zarkov, I haven't changed.
The urge to by new editions of the same sixty stories just keeps coming back when nothing else in the bookstore attracts. A particularly attractive cover, a unique little box set, an odd individual publication of a single short story . . . each seemed to say, "Take me home with you! Let me join others of my kind in your library!" And it was a siren call that once, many years ago, I might have succumbed to. But many an urge grow muted with age, and the weight of all the editions of the Canon I already own kept my hand from picking up another.
But it isn't just the physical books that stay with one through changing times. I was thinking a lot of a particular governess with a particular shade of chestnut hair and her consultation with Sherlock Holmes over a small matter that just didn't sit quite right -- a potential employer who insisted she cut her hair. Such a simple little thing, yet Arthur Conan Doyle found the material for a solid yarn there. No need for Jack the Ripper, elaborate internet hackers, unique sexual relationships, vampires, theoretical mathematics, or other showboating past or present pastiches like to toss in. Perhaps time has made "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches" a less viable tale for modern mass audiences, but why does it stick in my mind so well?
Perhaps it's just another old love sticking with me through changing times. So many fictions in whatever medium you choose fail to be memorable even a few months or a year after you experience them. Those tales that you find yourself holding on to then become very special . . . especially when everything else around you is changing.
Of course, holding on doesn't require stockpiling your library with too many redundant copies of those stories. But maybe just one more . . . .