Books and Papers

Spent most of the weekend reading and cleaning house.  We got the idea Friday night that we might go to Omaha on Saturday, but ended up just getting an ice cream sundae in Elk Point.  How’s that for scaling down?

But I managed to do a lot that needed doing–after the floor-scrubbing and cabinet cleaning Friday, I did dusting and a little holiday decorating Saturday, and major paper filing and discarding yesterday.  I managed to get four schoolwork folders reduced to one–tossing all the worksheets and keeping only the projects, which are now stored in the bottom of M’s dresser.

It continues to amaze me how much paper comes into my life without my even asking for it.  Sure, I print out articles here and there, but you’d think teaching online would cut down on the piles.  The mail seems to more than make up for it.

Still haven’t gone through last year’s seed catalogs, but those are next and can be recycled.  I hate to get rid of the standards I order from every year (Territorial, Johnny’s, Pinetree, Seeds Savers. Seeds of Change) until I get the new version.  Unlike the catalogs, the books I cleared out of my bookcase will hopefully be re-used: I’ve got a box for the English Dept. free table and some to donate to the library as well.

Unlike many English majors I’ve known, I don’t hoard books in bulk.  Well, I don’t anymore–I used to hoard them and then sell or get rid of most of them every time I moved, but after many nomadic years, I got tired of the process, and decided to reduce my store about every six months whether I was moving or not.

Now, when my big bookcase starts getting over-full, I start culling.  The top two shelves are reserved for novels, poetry, and essay collections; the middle shelf holds anthologies, reference, and textbooks; and the bottom two are for history, cookbooks, garden books, and tall books of all kinds.

I do have a tendency to stack books horizontally on top of the vertically-aligned ones, so along with the thirty-five to forty books that can properly fit on each shelf, I can get about five or fifteen more stacked on top.  When I reduce, I try to get my collection down to what will fit vertically on the shelves, or about two hundred books total.

I think of this as a positive exercise mainly because in culling some of the no longer desirable texts, I can open up space for more books to come into my life.  I did just purchase a couple novels from the new Main Street Bookstore, one of which I’ve already finished (Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye) and another I’ve just begun: Tom Wolfe’s I am Charlotte Simmons.

Atwood’s novel got a vertical spot on my shelf right away, but as much as I am enjoying Wolfe’s, his will likely go in the horizontal position on top–easier to pull out and give away in the next book reduction.

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4 responses

  1. I’ve tried 3 Tom Wolfe’s: Bonfire of the Vanities (my 1st…and I adored it), A Man in Full . . . tedious, but I finished it . . . and Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test…never finished. And I read Cat’s Eye a few years ago . . . good, but not one of my favorite Atwoods. I’ve given all my Atwood away, and Bonfire sneaks into giveaway piles, but always ends up back on my shelf.

    It’s funny, I have a similar process for weeding out books, and i constantly wonder what my library would be like if I’d kept all of those books through the years. But art supplies have far overtaken the space…even though books tend to be more reliable company. Just finished A Canticle for Leibowitz, a post-apocalyptic tale set in a monastery in 3 segments, each separated by 600 years. Now I’m currently reading City of Saints and Madmen, another experimental prose about a fictional world called Ambergris…you learn about the city through eyewitness accounts, excerpts from heavily footnoted textbooks, “articles” from magazines, letters, interviews, etc. Not the most compelling read I’ve had, but its form(s) is strangely addictive.

  2. Yes, “Bonfire” was also my first and favorite Wolfe–part of the reason why I picked up this (also lengthy) novel. It’s amusing, at least, and I’ll likely finish it.

    I’ve also read “Canticle,” though I can’t remember when I did–I think in my heavy reading spells on the Rosebud.

    It was a little strange to be reading Atwood and come across a passage you’d posted to my MySpace page–with all the context surrounding it. I think I’d known at the time what novel of hers it came from, but I’d forgotten. I’ll likely pick up Robber Bride or Blind Assassin next–I’ve read far too little of her work.

    My living room/office looks a little empty to me without all the stacks of books and papers. I’m not used to seeing so many uncluttered surfaces! I’m sure I won’t have long to get used to it.

    –re.

  3. oooh. The Blind Assassin ….a great title and a great read (though I couldn’t give a reliable synopsis to save my gpa these days). I also enjoyed Negotiating With The Dead (essays on writing), Wilderness Tips (didn’t we read that together in that Women’s Writing survey course?) and of course, The Handmaid’s Tale. Wasn’t as fond of The Edible Woman, Surfacing, or Cat’s Eye, though I did find particular passages in the latter quite riveting.

  4. I don’t think I was in that Women’s Writing survey course you mention–if I was, the memory escapes me. Considering the company I lived with at the time, that’s entirely possible.

    My memory for all of the books I’ve read and especially movies I’ve seen is severely limited. My reading-for-pleasure spells are very much like a witchcraft-induced state, and I come out of them blinking and slightly confused. Everything and nothing seems vaguely familiar after a few years, and while I could somewhat reliably tell whether I’ve read or seen something or not, I couldn’t for the life of me summarize the content without a few key words or prompts.

    The Tom Wolfe novel, which I’m halfway through already, has a lot of that “Masters of the Universe” hubris of “Bonfire.” While the protagonist is a young woman, much of the plot has her revolving around several men who are either “Masters” (jocks and frat boys), or geeks (smart but not physically impressive–“Masters of the mind”).

    I do have a bizarre T.C. Boyle novel to pass along to you this holiday–the interplay of hippies and mountain men is improbable, but darkly humorous.

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