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WEEDING BOOKS May 2, 2010

Posted by lycan librarian in Books and reading.
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        Yes, this scene is for real. It is an actual picture looking in at my study/library while standing in the doorway. Take my word for it — the shelves you cannot see are all loaded just as full as those you can.  No, the rest of my house does not look like this, there is just  something about my being contained within this array of books and treasures, like a figure in a really weird snowglobe, that stimulates my imagination and increases my creativity. But I must admit to having an awful lot of books, and they have overflowed into every room of the house.

     Every single time I see a scene from  The Learning Channel show Hoarding: Buried Alive, I vow to do something about the stacks of book I have so expertly learned to secrete under chairs, in corners, behind furniture, and in those fantastically useful plastic kitty litter buckets. (Tip: those empty buckets are especially excellent for storing paperbacks and soft cover books, which I keep to take along on trips.) My dream is to have bookshelves that I can walk over to, read all the spines, and easily extract the chosen title. In reality, though, I am forced to move a stack of small books, a Living Dead Doll, some rocks and crystals, grinning skulls and skeletons, framed photographs, or a troll, crow or Halloween decoration before I can pull out any of my books. Worse, I often become distracted by the things I have to move, so often never get to the book I was going for in the first place.
     I have been able to discard a few titles, usually while wondering why I had hung onto them for so long — the same phenomena I suffer through while cleaning my clothes closet. But all too often, a book I had finally donated to the library book sale will be the very one I need to look up information for a book or story I am writing. My husband doesn’t understand why I would want to keep a book I had already read, and I have tried to explain a writer’s need for a reference library to him, but even likening my books to his many tackle boxes full of fishing lures and his  cabinet stuffed full of guns and bows does not seem to enlighten him.

     One problem is that I have a passion for old books. I love the musty smell and yellowed tint of old volumes, and enjoy reading forgotten novels from the past. If I get rid of these books, I can’t just go on Amazon and buy them again. Even when I  have replaced a title, I usually wound up with a different printing, and longed for the old cover that had been on the copy I had owned previously.

     So we come to the big question — can one own too many books? I don’t think so. If an individual should truly run out of space, I  imagine fine and utile chairs and tables can be built from ones’ handsome, colorful, and expensive oversized editions, and stacks of novels can be set next to the bed to serve as night stands. Plus, think about it, there is no need for insulation when someone has a double row of books standing along all of their outside walls.                        

     Although books are heavy and bulky, and probably moving’s biggest pain in the butt now that we no longer lug around crates full of phonograph records, they contain so much for their size. If you consider their weight against the entire world that they hold within their covers, everything falls into perspective, and they can then be viewed as an extremely thrifty and intelligent means of storing the narrative of a life, or, sometimes, an entire universe. Maybe, in lieu of ridding myself of my precious books, I’ll do what some of the most extreme hoarders do on the Buried Alive television show — buy the house next door.

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