A few weeks ago I was forced to take to my bed with a bad cold. In a fever state, I streamed all the episodes of Marie Kondo “Tyding Up” on Netflix. This show follows on the heels of Kondo’s bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The show’s premise is simple: people want to get rid of their clutter and this small woman Japan helps them. It is not some big, loud American show, but rather is quiet and calm like Kondo. At the heart of the KonMari method is choosing joy. Kondo helps folks sort through their belongings, keeping only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy — thanking them for their service.
The perfect show to watch when you are running a fever, and cannot suddenly decide that now is the time to sort through all your belongings.
The Netflix show led to the creation of memes critical of Kondo and her method. Particular ire was drawn from the book lovers in the world that were appalled at the idea of only having 30 books (which is not a requirement of the method).
As with most memes, it was an overreaction to a misunderstanding of the purpose of the show and Kondo’s method. Basically, if you aren’t burdened by the number of books you have or the amount of stuff you have, then you don’t need Marie Kondo. If you want less stuff, then time to start picking of things and asking yourself if the thing “sparks joy.” The phrase “spark joy” is a translation of the Japanese tokimeku, which means “flutter, throb, palpitate.” My understanding from watching the show during a fever dream is that it means that it causes a reaction, a tingle, a trigger for memories and happiness.
So what does all this have to do with the end of the world, you ask?
As the internet debated how a thing could spark joy, I stumbled upon a prime example. This year I have set the goal (certainly not a New Year’s resolution) to read more for pleasure. I read a lot for work, but don’t spend much time these days getting lost in a book. So I began the year rereading one of my all-time favorite books — Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
I read this book every few years. I have it as an audiobook. I have the BBC Radio 4 drama of it. I am over the moon excited that Amazon is making a series out of it that will air this year. And it was because of that I wanted to read it one more time.
I love the casting of the Amazon show. I am so looking forward to the characters taking on a new life. But I wanted one more chance to read the book where the voice in my head was my own creation and not someone else’s. I wanted the images of Aziraphale, Crowley, Agnes, and Adam to be mine. I wanted to get lost in my own dream world with this book before it became enfleshed on the small screen.
I have no doubt that I will love the Amazon series and the portrayal of these characters, but I wanted one last chance to be with the story as mine.
So what does all this have to do with a small Japanese woman getting Americans to tidy up?
When I decided to reread this book, I went and found my original copy purchased in the Fall of 1996 at the Books-a-Million on Airport Blvd. in Mobile, Alabama. It is worn. The cover as some tears. The corners are rounded, and the edges of the pages soft. There are pen marks, it smells vaguely of cigarettes. The last page is an order form you could mail in for more books.
I have another copy purchased later that I use to loan to folks. But this beat up copy, when I pick it up and turn the pages, it sparks joy. It brings back memories of finding this book after browsing the shelves looking for something to read. It brings back memories of laughing out loud the first time I read the footnotes about the Satanic order of chattering nuns. It brings back the joy of falling in love with a cast of characters and a story. Told hold the book itself, without reading a word, brings all those memories back.
So, I am not about to start picking up all my books looking for joy. And I don’t expect that I will be piling all my belongings in the center of a room any time soon. But I want to say thank you to my beat up, old copy of Good Omens for the years of service and for the joy that it still brings.