Sunday, October 11, 2015
The Horror! The Horror! Getting Rid of Books
“But however many bookshelves Crispin built there were never enough. The books in alphabetical rows were overgrown by piles of new books, doubled in front. Books multiplied, books swarmed, books, I sometimes dreamt, seemed to reproduce themselves—they were a papery population explosion. When they had exhausted the shelves, they started to take over the stairs… You cannot have a taste for minimalist decor if you seriously read books.”
Say Amen, somebody! The paragraph above is from Linda Grant’s Kindle Single, “I Murdered My Library.” The rest of the essay goes on to consider things I’m not much interested in, but this bit struck a chord. I don’t have Crispin (the gentleman who built Grant’s bookshelves), I have Bob (the husband who bolted numerous canning shelves to our walls). Bob has a boyhood friend, an architect, who asks ever so gently, if we might want to put in something more attractive.
The answer is no. We will eventually be moving to a smaller place and we aim for sturdiness, not beauty. The shelves are bolted down because I am not always fleet of foot and I fall. What would happen if I grabbed a bookshelf and it fell on me. Bob has insured that I will not be maimed or killed by the objects I love so much.
When we moved to our current house 10 years ago, we were moving to a bigger place. Even then the books were an issue. The movers came to do an estimate.
They figured I had 90 boxes of books and that this would add an additional $1,500 to the move. Bob moved the books and I would get phone messages at work. “Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins are in Collingswood.”
Since then, I discovered one click at Amazon and I still frequent book stores.
The Kindle has eased things, but I read old books that often mention other old books.
Kindle tells me I have “The Complete George Bernard Shaw” but it doesn’t include “Pen Portraits and Reviews” which other bookish people assure me is not to be missed. Many wonderful things are not available electronically. And there are so many pleasures in old books. The aforementioned Shaw volume comes from The Lancaster (England) Public Library. A little sticker in the front of the book tells me I can borrow it for two weeks, I must alert the library when I move out of the district and I cannot borrow books if someone in my home has an infectious disease. In a volume of Anne Fleming’s letters, someone has obliging included newspaper clippings: Anthony Powell’s review of the letters and the obituary of a Fleming relative. The letters are fun, by the way, but Fleming, I suspect, will always be known primarily as the wife of two famous men, Lord Beaverbrook and Ian Fleming.
A cozy mystery I bought (The Case of the Missing Book by Ian Sansom) included a gift note. The giftee was ill and the giver offered the book and any other assistance that might be needed. I rely on my Kindle but electronic books don’t allow for personal touches, though I am always interested to see what passages other people highlight.
I had intended this to be a little meditation on what books I’d gotten rid of and find that I’ve talked more about why I still need to acquire paperbacks, hardcovers and what Amazon calls “unknown bindings.” In the field of addiction there’s the concept of “harm reduction.” You may not be totally abstinent but your needles are clean and you don’t use as much. I used to get rid of 2 books and buy 5. Now it’s the other way around.
© 2015 Stephanie Patterson