Friday, February 28, 2014

Going Through the Books

I woke up this morning and as soon as I had eaten breakfast began to pull books off my shelves and evaluate them for re-shelving, tossing, or re-reading. I didn't want to sit down, you see. What with the snow and all it's been weeks, oh, all right, months, since I regularly attended the gym. I can feel myself turning to cement from the armpits down. Maybe even higher. So, the books. One must stand up to examine them, lift them, drag them around.

The shelves in the bedroom contain mostly non-fiction, mostly American history. The straight-out genealogical books and the witch trial stuff live in my office, the fiction in the "library," where we keep the television, the children's books on the shelves in the third floor guest room, the guilty pleasures of Louis L'Amour, Terry Pratchett, and Brian Jacques in a small bookcase in the upstairs hall. The big bookcases in the upstairs hall are full of Harold's books, which I wouldn't dream of touching, since he has his mysterious system.

Fact is, I haven't touched my bedroom bookcase in quite a while either. So the exercise involved Swiffers, first to dust the family pictures in front of the books, and then to dust the books themselves. Then to rediscover all the things I used to be interested in. Here's a row a yard wide of books about the Indians. Actually I'm always interested in the Indians. Here are a number of books about Thomas Edison, including one all about the electric chair. Those of you who read The Edge of Ruin, which I wrote as Irene Fleming, will recall that I did a number on Edison in that book. I would never do that without reams of documentation.

Then there are some diaries. Keep? Toss? I was on the point of throwing away a nearly blank diary covered in red leather with something weird like rotted brown paper sticking to the front when I got a look at the earliest entries. This is the book I took notes in the time I pretended to be a newspaper reporter so I could get next to Bil Baird, the famous puppeteer, when he gave a talk at the Trenton museum. I was, I confess, a drooling fan. I'll tell you the whole story sometime, but the diary is well worth keeping. It has sketches of puppets and their workings.

The bookshelves are mostly shoveled out now. I'm sitting here eating lunch and considering actually going to the gym. When I get back I'll return the family pictures to the shelves and think about putting up Duncan McColl's memoirs as a kindle. They are long, long out of copyright, and it seems to me that scholars would like to see them. He was a famous Methodist preacher in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada. I admire him greatly; sometime I'll tell you why.

That's the fun thing about my bookshelves. They're full of people I admire, Lincoln Steffens, Maxine Eliot, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Masterman Hardy, Ida Tarbell, Bil Baird, Tecumseh. Anytime I want to I can go read about their doings, now that the dust is off the books, and fall in love all over again. But first I have to go to the gym.

© 2014 Kate Gallison

1 comment:

  1. I hear you, but how dreary life would be if we had no books, only lists of them that could be arranged on those little dull things called, well, you know what I mean... tjs