I STEAL time from my family to read anything that comes between my hands. I creatively invent excuses (okay, even lie) to get out of doing household chores, giving myself time to curl up in a forgotten corner somewhere, to romance the words away.
Hello, my name is Elviza and I’m a bookaholic.
On salary day, I buy books first before thinking of helping my husband pay for the home mortgage, car loan or that financial evil called the credit card. In moments of weakness, selling off the jewellery my mother-in-law bequeath me comes to mind, for I so want to go again on a shopping spree at Borders and MPH. Holding some new purchases should cure this insatiable desire for books – for a little while till I need to devour more.
I read in the dark; I read in the car while waiting for the traffic light to turn green; I read in the courtroom. Once, the interpreter ticked me off because she’d had to shout my name thrice before I finally looked in her direction. In her stoney expression, coupled with hostile body language, arms almost akimbo she chided, “Kalau nak baca buku, balik rumah, yer?”
As I am now bereft of cash (and no financial institution in its right frame of mind would dare flash a new credit card in front of me) — stealing books, while seeming to be an increasingly viable option, is not really viable at all. I can’t be a prisoner mother.
A new option recently dawned: Let’s do the library. A self-professed book junkie, I have never set foot in the National Library. Did I just hear you snort?
On Tuesday, I stood at the entrance to the National Library, thinking, What a hideous building this is! A hideous building frequented by a bunch of nerds? A potentially disastrous combination. Nobody would want to be seen here if they had a life – but since I have almost none without books, this potential borrower braved it. I strode ahead to the registration counter.
The entire process took less than 15 minutes, at a cost of 10 sen for the counter staff to photocopy my IC. So far so good for a person on the brink of bankruptcy.
I proceeded to level one, which houses the reference books for local school examinations together with a row of computer terminals with Internet connection.
Disoriented in a new environment and with no concrete plan for the day, I approached a cluster of boys at a computer, trying to get a peek at what they were peeping at on the screen. The boys stared at me, and body language blocked my view. As I was still standing behind them, one of them whined, Kami baru 15 minit pakai computer ni Kak!
What’s your problem, kiddo?
That was when I sighted the label on the monitor: Penggunaan internet adalah terhad kepada satu jam setiap pengguna. Out of spite (anyway I swear they were playing games instead of doing something constructive), I said I would be back in exactly 45 minutes to claim my rightful throne (all the while laughing inside, poor kids!).
After terrorising the juveniles on school holiday, I took the spiral staircase to level two which houses the Kesusasteraan Melayu books, between aisles 300 and 399. Since I had made the blunder of mentioning Usman Awang and Tongkat Warrant like they weren’t one and the same person in my third column, I had vowed to improve my rusty Kesusasteraan at all costs.
After a browsing of the shelves, I now feel able to give a more nuanced opinion about the place: the shelves are badly arranged; the genres are mixed up; and the translated versions of timeless novels like Madam Bovary, The Great Gatsby and The Prince and the Pauper are on the same shelves with Malay literature pieces. I burst out laughing when I spotted a translated version of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick titled Ikan Paus Putih. How else would you translate ‘Moby Dick’? I think the translated novels need their own shelves.
My adventure in this book heaven came to an abrupt halt when the librarian tapped on my shoulder and subsequently told me she was going home. The clock pointed at 7 and I had been reading, while sitting on the floor, Salah Asuhan by Abdul Moies for five hours. That’s hardly my fault since this is a nonborrowable book.
Don’t ask me why. All material on that level is meant for reference only.
And did I also mention that, since May 2009, you can recharge the battery of your laptop in the library for free?
That’s much better than certain mamak joints that charge you RM1 for plugging in.
● Elviza Michele Kamal (https://elviza.wordpress.com) wants to live in Skoob Books but she doesn’t think that ‘Say You Say Me’ guy would let her.