Friday, February 19, 2010

A Bookshelves Meme

My bookscases are such gossips. They love to talk about me behind my back, so it made perfect sense when I first saw this over at Dorr's that I would have to share with you some of the things I've heard them say. They love it when Bob and I do things like take off for 3 weeks up in Maine, because it means they get the house to themselves and can yack and call out to each other (even to their friends all the way up in the attic) and spread rumors all they want. However, they do enough whispering while I'm around and think I can't hear that I know exactly what they say to each other.

"Emily doesn't live alone. She lives with a man. Supposedly, she's married, but we've never seen any marriage certificate to prove this." Why else (they reason) would they have to support every John LeCarre novel ever written, knowing perfectly well that, although I might read one or two (although I haven't yet), I would never buy such things? They also wouldn't have such things as Sozhenitsyn's August 1914 or Basball: A Celebration! taking up space on their shelves. (I do like baseball, but not enough to acquire such books.) However, my bookcases really can't complain, because the fact I live with Bob also means they have such cool things gracing their shelves as Lev (yes, "Lev," not "Leo") Tolstoy's Resurrection and Short Stories, both of which were bought in the former U.S.S.R. (Raduga Publishers, Moscow, and they say "Printed in the Union of Soviet Socilaist Republics" on them) or 2 (and a bit) shelves of Library of America books that he used to be able to get free (through a connection he no longer has, unfortunately).

"If Emily were a cat, she'd be dead. She is way too curious for her own good." My bookshelves know perfectly well that, even if they were to weed out all the things that don't belong to me, they'd still have to make room for such varied things as Your Brain: A User's Guide and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Calvin for Armchair Enthusiasts and Eco-Terrorists, just to name a few. In fairness to me, some of the books on my shelves are not there to feed an insatiable curiosity. I happen to have worked in publishing for 15+ years and have edited a lot of books on a lot of varied topics and acquired others to see if I really wanted a particular author to write something for me.

"Emily is impulsive. She buys so many books and never gets around to reading them." I plan to, one day, though. They'll tell you they've heard that before, and see no evidence of it, but don't listen to them. After all, didn't I create the TBR challenge this year? They haven't yet noticed I've been two months without buying a new book.

"Emily is cheap, and she has way too many books. She needs to buy more bookshelves. Here we are, day in and day out, breaking our backs to display billions of books for her, and what do we get in return? Nothing. Well, if you don't count more books on top of the ones that are already doing us in. We think she might even have a bit of a 'collecting' problem." The books don't realize I suffer from insomnia. They think it's perfectly okay at 2:00 a.m., when everyone should be asleep, to grumble, along with the bookcases, about how squashed and crowded they are, how their spines are cracking and their beautiful book jackets are getting ruined, and why don't I buy more shelves. Occasionally, those that are all balanced precariously on top of shelves will rebel and jump off. However, I can ignore their silly complaints. It isn't as though we have tons of room around the house for more bookcases, and I recently read E. L. Doctorow's Homer and Langley, which confirmed that Bob and I are not the obsessive collectors my books and shelves would have you believe. (Thank God for those to whom one can compare herself in order to verify sanity.)

"Emily is so childish. She's got so many children's books. When is she ever going to grow up?" Not only do I have two bookcases full of children's books, but they are all up in the attic. If you have ever seen it, you know that my attic is a magical place. First of all, you have to discover the door that leads to it. Then you have to climb very steep stairs, and then you have to figure out which room houses the children's books. Sorry, bookcases, I'm never going to grow up.

"Emily loves ghost stories." Really, that is such tiresome gossip. Is there anyone on the planet who doesn't yet know it? My bookcases need to give it up and move onto something more juicy.

"Emily wants everyone to think she isn't, but she is anal-retentive." What can I say? My bookcases know me quite well. They know that they are all carefully arranged to perpetuate the lie that I'm not anal-retentive. The arrangements on the shelves seem to be completely haphazard. However, if one pays very close attention, the beginnings of organization can be found. There are the cookbook rooms and the hard and social sciences room and the sports and leisure room. One day, if the time is ever found, I will get around to organizing them all by subject and author (but, so far, time has not allowed for that. I've got too many books to read to waste my time organizing).


Rebecca H. said...

So talkative your books are! I wonder you ever get any sleep at all. I'd love to spend some more time looking over your shelves, and maybe even help you organize them a little. I like the idea of books that look like they aren't organized, but really are :)

Pete said...

Loved reading about your books. I think your books might get into wonderful conversations with each other (Calvin and the Eco-Terrorists for example). And if I had a magical attic like that I would also not want to grow up completely!

Emily Barton said...

Dorr, you are welcome to come browse my shelves any time you like.

Pete, oh yes, when I can get my books to stop gossiping about me, they have wonderful chats. Glad my attic sounds good to you, too. It really is a magical place (if a bit hot in the summer and a bit cold in the winter).