Sunday, April 12, 2009

An Insanely Compulsive Book Post

I have been compulsively organizing books all day, and I'm feeling highly unappreciated. S has assured me that he appreciates me, because I was all grownup, and told him that I was feeling unappreciated, and I do believe him, but, as I also told him, he can't truly appreciate, because he does not truly get what I have done. He acknowledged that this was the case, and reiterated his appreciation, like the grownup he also is. Still, I feel the need to document, for the record, as it were. And, those of you who can appreciate--I know you're out there, and you know who you are--I expect FULSOME and public appreciation.

There are a lot of books. Like, you cannot even imagine how many books there are. OK, maybe you can, and maybe you can too, but, no, those of you who can imagine can only imagine in comparision, because the books have never been in one place, out of boxes, in....mmm, perhaps since we left California? And, since then, the books have probably tripled in number. And the number grows, well, not quite every day, but certainly every week, because books enter this house new, used, pre-publication, in the mail, from friends, from grandparents, from stores...we have practically every kind of book you can imagine, coming from everywhere, in at least five languages, and if you're thinking it's out of control, well, it is. And if you're thinking why don't we just get rid of the damn books, well, we've considered, and we've attempted, and we've gotten rid of a few boxes (mainly mysteries), and we've barely made a dent, and we've bought new bookshelves.

When we moved into this apartment, we had seven bookshelves (alas, no built-ins). Since we renovated, we've unpacked, recycled, and bought an additional ten bookshelves. Then there are the piles. We are trying to ameliorate the piles. Please note that, aside from the buying (and putting together), which has been valiantly accomplished by S, most of the "we" in this post is me, though the accumulative "we" is all of us.

As I believe I've blogged before, I have always wanted to organize the books by color. But my desires are always powerful and fraught, confined by the sense of loss inherent in gain, anxious of consequences, yet determined to prevail. This one was no different.

The books are being organized by color. The yellow shelf is most fantastic in its lurid glow. It provides a lovely sample of juxtaposition: Advertisements for Myself, The Iliad, The Birth of Pleasure (Gilligan), Deadly Allies II, and down the way The Book of God and Man, The White Goddess, A Middle East Reader, Manifesta. The playroom has two white cases of white books. The black books are forbidding; I'm sure we'll never find anything there again. I am quite in love with red, purple, and orange.

But I couldn't go all the way. There is an entire bookcase, next to my desk, of books related to one of my major projects. The guidebooks are together; as are the books about writing; the Torahs, Megillahs, Haggadahs, and prayerbooks; and there is one shelf with Freud and Shakespeare. Each of these are on small shelves, in a tall narrow case.

I also reorganized the fiction, which is together, alphabetical, in the living room and dining room. Three cases. Reorganization needed to make way for additional books, unpacked and acquired since we moved in. This gave me enormous pleasure, and I tried to decide which shelf was my favorite, but how do you choose between Dickens-Eggers and Laurence (Margaret)-Mann? Or, really, between any of them?

I tried to get rid of Tibetan, Hawaiian, and Native American anthologies, but...who has Tibetan, Hawaiian, and Native American anthologies? Or such a collection of 1980s poetry and feminism? To get rid of it is to eliminate history. What if someone needs them someday, and we have them? Can't do it.

OK, I'm feeling better now. Back to it. Only three more boxes to unpack, and maybe a dozen piles. And then I can rest, for maybe a month, till they start piling up again...


Jenny Davidson said...

Good work!

(I can thoroughly imagine, needless to say...)

(I have the yellow White Goddess too!)

Ruth said...

Surly, I count as someone who doesn't need to imagine but who KNOWS and thus fully APPRECIATES.

Mary said...

The only rooms in our house that do not have at least one bookcase in them are the bathrooms and the laundry room. Heck, even the upstairs hall has a bookcase at the end of it. Yes, even the boys' rooms have bookcases.

Interesting part: before I married Tim, I always owned way more books than anyone else I lived with. Here, I am outnumbered probably 8:1. When we moved, people commented on how many more boxes of books we had than clothes...

Kelly said...

I can't wait to see all of this over the summer. You're amazing!

Dawn said...

I'm going to send this Lis because truly of anyone? She will be able to appreciate this because she does insane things like this and she also has a lot of books (although of all my book-loving friends, I can say with absolute certainty that you have the most)!

Libby said...

If half my books weren't in my office, our house would be overwhelmed by books. There are boxes in the basement. There are stacks and piles and double-shelving. Mariah organized hers by color last year and they look lovely, but I think the vast majority of our books are fiction and I'd do them the way you have, alphabetically. Except that the kids' lit (mine, Nick's, Mariah's) all ends up in separate places, and . . . well, you know.

This was an enormous task, and you deserve major kudos.

(Are the cd's organized? Is that one S's task?)

motherissues said...

When I moved into my partner's house, I set up our built-in to have color-coded non-fiction so there's a rainbow spectrum along the wall. She initially didn't like it, but I think it's grown on her. I love it and have seldom had trouble finding things.

And I also agree it's harder to get rid of books no one else will have even if they're not ones you expect to need. Because someday I may want to know about socialism in Albania as it was analyzed in the '60s, and how would I do that without my little book?