Thursday, May 24, 2018

Michael A. Ferro’s Library: A Love-Hate Story


Reader:  Michael A. Ferro
Location:  Rural Ann Arbor, Michigan
Collection Size:  About 1,000
The one book I'd run back into a burning building to rescue:  The first advance readers copy that I received of my debut novel, Title 13. And I’d probably push a smoldering old lady out of my way to get to it, too.
Favorite book from childhood:  Any of the Calvin and Hobbes collections (I proudly had them all) or the novelization of Star Wars. I wrote a really lousy essay comparing the film and the book back in the 4th grade and had to read it in front of the class. I can still recall the horrible playground beating I took soon after.
Guilty pleasure book:  Jack Handey’s The Stench of Honolulu. I so often go back to it when I need to feel good. Also, any of the novels by former The Simpsons writer John Swartzwelder. There’s no literary merit to them like with other humor writers such as Ian Frazier, but damn, they’re about as funny as any book can be.



Libraries: a Love-Hate Story

The only thing I hate about libraries is how they are not inside my house or right next door, so I decided to change that. When I fancy reading a particular book, I want to crack it open the moment the urge strikes me—not long after I’ve checked if it’s available at my local library and I put it on hold and go drive through a massive thunderstorm to pick it up and I get a flat tire so I have to get out to fix it only to have some goofy driver hugging the curb drive right through a massive ocean of standing water creating a small tsunami that sweeps me up and plunges me down into the sewer ditch below.

No thanks. I’ll just buy all my books and make my own library at home, thank you very much.

I should also admit here that I’ve had a bit of a contentious relationship with each of the libraries in every city I’ve lived in. And by that, I mean that I am horrible at returning books on time. I have accumulated an embarrassing amount of late charges in my life, usually to the point of those threatening letters arriving in the mail demanding money. You’re probably asking yourself: How does one person amass so many charges through mere minuscule late-return fines? Well, you see, that’s my other problem: I can never just get one book.


I’ve lived in various places across the Midwest and everywhere I go, I always used to scope out the local library soon after settling in. I would try to start by just checking out one or two books, but that quickly turned into the max limit of twenty or so at one time. Now, multiply the ten cents or so per day late charge for twenty books, then factor in weeks on end of being reluctant to return said books, and you’ve got yourself a modern-day literary extortion scheme. I’ve had my kneecaps threatened by bookish loan sharks more times than I care to admit. In fact, that’s usually how I know when it’s time to pack my wares and skip town. Some folks lose their jobs or destroy their marriages—I look out my window and see an angry mob of librarians waving letters of overdue payments, shouting blasphemes about credit scores and collection agencies.

Yes, I am an idiot.


Obviously I’m exaggerating a bit, but let’s just say it’s best for all parties considered if I own my own books. With that in mind, I turned the first floor of my house into a library. When I moved in, I only had a few bookshelves and roughly 500 books, but since then, I’ve loosened my belt quite a bit. Having all that empty space down there was just too tempting, so I had to build more bookshelves. And, of course, once I had more bookshelves, I needed more books. Today the count stands somewhere around 1,000 books. Now, I can do this because I don’t have a wife or children, you see; there’s no need to have a playroom for my goopy kid and no wife who needs a room of her own for a personal yoga studio—it’s all mine, and with this pigheaded attitude, it will be all mine for many, many years to come.


As is the case with anyone who has their own personal library, there are a few books that stand out to me as being some of the most important. I’ve included a photo here of a stack of books that have rewired my brain in some way or another. These are the books that changed my life and made me want to become a writer. As you’ll be able to tell from this selection, it’s quite an odd grouping of titles.


My own debut novel, Title 13, is an eclectic mishmash of satire and emotional realism that follows the oft-absurd story of a young alcoholic named Heald Brown who lives in downtown Chicago and works for the federal government. And while there’s plenty of postmodern, literary tragicomedy within the pages, much of the novel also centers around the brutal realities of addiction and the divisive nature that has consumed our society and poisoned our culture in a broken modern America. Keeping that sense of dichotomy in mind, perhaps it’s not so surprising when I study this stack of books and note the clear line between literary, postmodern fiction, and absurd humor stories and essays.


Oh, and there’s also a photo of some of my old New Yorker magazines from my 15-plus years of subscribing that I just can’t throw away because I’m a pretentious dweeb who’s convinced I will be able to read them cover-to-cover someday.



Michael A. Ferro's debut novel, Title 13, was published earlier this year. He has received an Honorable Mention from Glimmer Train for their New Writers Award, won the Jim Cash Creative Writing Award for Fiction, and been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Michael’s writing has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies. Born and bred in Detroit, Michael has lived, worked, and written throughout the Midwest. He currently resides in rural Ann Arbor, Michigan. Click here to visit his website.

My Library is an intimate look at personal book collections.  Readers are encouraged to send high-resolution photos of their home libraries or bookshelves, along with a description of particular shelving challenges, quirks in sorting (alphabetically? by color?), number of books in the collection, and particular titles which are in the To-Be-Read pile.  Email thequiveringpen@gmail.com for more information.


2 comments:

  1. Enjoyed your post.I have a love affair or addiction with books, I donate them to my retirement apartment library, sell them and give them to my friends yet they seem to multiply like rabbits!

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  2. Not everyone has the means or the desire to build their own library. The public library has been a source of exceptional literature for all tastes and pocketbooks for many years. I am a strong advocate for public libraries and hope you will see fit to support them in the future as well.

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