"Beauty confronts us with the requirement that we place ourselves among...the redeemers, the leaders in the protection of life. Once you have seen the bush on fire, you are not going to get out of the assignment unless you close your eyes to the beauty.... [You] either have to close your eyes or go back to Egypt and set the people free." - Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, "Rising to the Challenge of Our Times"

Sunday, March 19, 2006

My inner librarian

I'm trying to get in touch with her because she seems more accessible than the inner filing clerk.

We helped some friends move this weekend and it inspired me to attempt (yet again) to cull my book collection. People who have helped me move in the past have been deeply impressed by the number of boxes of books that they had the opportunity to carry up flights of stairs on my behalf. The question to ask is: do I love this book enough to ask someone else to carry it up a flight of stairs? Another question to ask is, have I even looked at this book in the last five years? If I never finished it when I was supposed to read it for that class in college twelve years ago, why do I still have it? Or the reverse: since I slogged through it for that class, it is now a paperback trophy on the shelf, a literary taxidermy project.

I have argued with the inner librarian about the need for me to keep these many quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore as potential references for writing my post-post-post-modern epic, etc. etc. I'm not sure who is arguing which point of view but I have a new hypothesis that having too many books is actually preventing me from reading because at any given time I can't find the right one, and possibly inhibiting production of the masterwork as well. So while I didn't find very many books that I was ready to detach from on today's sweep, I did empty a box left over from the last move and I alphabetized the poetry section. I also found a book about dowsing that I had forgotten I had. Maybe my epic will have dowsing in it.

Blogging may also inhibit production of the masterwork. On the other hand it has some value as a writing exercise. Blog writing is generally accused of being quick and sloppy, but my #1 writing obstacle--whether it be email, blog, memo, letter, poem, scene from novel--is obsessively overthinking about it. Ask Celia how long it took me to write a note to our landlord once. So if you ever read anything sloppy on my blog, consider it a sign of progress.


edwardvanroberts said...

Maybe you should just combine all of your blogs and make that into your masterpiece? I can empathize with your unwillingness to detach yourself from unknown books for unknown reasons. There are far too many unknown things under my bed, in the closet, in my garage, and in my drawer at work that take up too much space and collect too much dust to know what to do with. Alas, they stay where they are until another urge to clean comes around.

costco shopper said...

I am saved from accumulating too many books as I have someone who sees that my life and my books remain organized as much as it and they are. The guilt of carrying new books home from my favorite candy store weighs on me heavier than the thought of moving them in boxes from Centerville to Westport sometime.

Some day in the not too far distant future my mind will slip a few more cogs and I won't have the delight in discovery and possessing someone else's thoughts and rhymes to ponder or to carry home. Life will be readily organizable then, Depends on one shelf and Geritol on the other, ah the golden years. I can hardly weight.

wordsfromhome said...

Perhaps once in a decade I find that, in spite of a library that would rival the Library of Congress, we cannot find a needed volume. Even worse, I regularly discover two or even three copies of the same tome ticked away on the shelves, or piled by the bed, or under a chair.
Last fall I plunged into the several months long project of emptying each shelf, organizing the volumes in stacks on the living room floor, and compelling my resident book lover to review the stacks. Perhaps the promise that he could offer the excess to other nearby fledgingly libraries helped the process. Two or three less well developed libraries did quite well perusing through the tonnage thus developed. I understand their bank accounts also benefited as valuable but unwanted selections were diverted to e-bay.
Purging completed, I sorted, dusted, and replaced books on about 50 linear feet of bookshelves, assigned a place by subject matter and alphabetically by author. A grand sight, and I a could find any book he might want in less than a minute. There was also room on every nearly every shelf for new additions.
I have no illusions that our library will ever be complete.
It has been less than three months since I completed the project. Every spare space on every shelf is filled by a very important new acquisition. Stacks of books are on the floor awaiting a shelf assignment. The stack by the lazyboy is a foot tall.
The burning question is: Should I have acted on the urge to clean?

wordsfromhome said...
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costco shopper said...

The freedom of disorganization, i.e. books stacked one foot high near a lazy-boy, comes at a very high price.

M.A. said...

Books are good for reading, but this is only one of their many charms. They smell good. They are nice to look at. They are nice to hold. A foot high stack of books makes an attractive, multifunctional side table. Books that you don't want to read but have pretty pictures can be cut up and made into collages. You can drill out the centers and make secret hiding places for your diamonds and loveletters. And where else can you find/put marginalia? I'm in favor of books to the rafters.