Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Local forecast: bookish with a chance of showers

I spent this dark rainy day ensconced in the book room at home, regarding my subfusc accumulations with a jaundiced eye. Not to overly anthropomorphise, but they responded in kind. Having moved the books several times over the past few years, I find myself wanting to significantly lighten the load, so I've been culling again. The books seem to know, and cringe away from me deeper into the shelves.

They can't hide, though. I looked at every book on every shelf. Now, when we moved into this house, I haphazardly organized the books as I unpacked them, and haven't rearranged since. Which means today, sorting, I found Evelyn Waugh shelved in three different places, and W. Somerset Maugham in two, and Christopher Morley all over. I also found myself wondering if I will ever read anything by Anthony Powell (shelved in two places). Do I need A Dance to the Music of Time in both hardcover and softcover? Do I need books about Anthony Powell if I've never read Anthony Powell himself? Does my well-being require ten books by H.H. the Dalai Lama, or will five suffice? Am I required to keep books other people have given me, books I did not choose and will certainly never read? Books inscribed to me? Do I need to own a book just because I've already owned it for twenty years? If I will never have a complete collection of the McSweeney's oeuvre, why should I retain some decidedly odd novels just because they carry that imprint? I used to love the novels of Douglas Coupland, do I still? Is Lorrie Moore just too depressing to have around, brilliant as her books are, even if they are first editions? Why, exactly, do I have all these books about the British Empire, and why do I love them so? I did a lot of standing around and staring into space while thinking thoughts such as these. It made for a long day.

However, I also took action, and pulled twelve cartons' worth of books out of there, while using the criteria that what remains must be what I dearly love. The culls are headed to my book booth at the antiques mall in Bangor. Where they will no doubt reside indefinitely. So I really do still own them, even if they aren't here at home with me. A comforting thought, in many ways. It seems to be so much more difficult to deaccession books than it is to acquire them...

On the bright side (where I usually live, on non-rainy days), I rediscovered many wonderful things to read, and read soon. Also, what remains has room to breathe, and entire subjects have room to expand once again, should I be lucky enough to find additions. I've purposely avoided any book sales and shops recently, vowing to clear out before bringing more in. Mission accomplished.

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