Saturday, October 07, 2006


Attempting to get a grip

Largely customer-less, except for Philip (thanks Philip!), I've been sorting books all day. For the shop. Sort of. I've had to face the fact that I am a book magnet - they accumulate like dead leaves around my feet in the fall, and all of a sudden I can't fit one more on my shelves at home (Hmm, might want to read this, sometime...) and they are stacking up in the storage area at the shop like I'm building forts with them. And this is one of the days of reckoning. I have ruthlessly brought stacks from home to price and shelve at the shop, and I am even culling the stacks at the shop that were bound for home, and putting half of those out for sale, too. But a few still stick, even if I know I will never read them. For example, a nice hardcover from 1936, the first publication of an obscure English poem written around 1400 a.d. Why would I want such a thing, particularly when I cannot read Chaucerian English - as in "For tristith, als trewly / as tyllinge us helpeth..." (p.19)? Well, I was immediately ensnared by the introduction, which begins:

"In the autumn of 1928 a west-country bookseller sent up to Mssrs. Hodgson for sale a number of books, and with them a dilapidated manuscript, on which he set so small a value that he instructed the auctioneers not to return it if it proved unsaleable. Mr. S. Hodgson at once recognized its value, and Mr. Kenneth Sisam among others identified it as a poem hitherto unknown..." (Mum and the Sothsegger, Oxford, for the Early English Text Society p.ix)

I read this and the urge to keep the book, indeed to read on! is extremely strong. And this happens over and over, book after book. I struggle with this urge to collect, or hoard I should more honestly say, because of space limitations, and my god, there really are only so many hours in the day one can read - believe me, I know. I have also reached the conclusion that even if I do carefully note a price on a front free endpaper and place the book out for sale in the shop, I still own the book - and will, seven times out of ten, possibly forever. I can't decide if this thought is chilling, or warming! My fort is now my shop. In fact, now that I think of it, I've described the shop to old friends as my Fortress of Solitude. Anyway, I've still got a few thousand books at home, despite my high falutin' talk of ruthlessness. Back to the books.

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