: views from the Hill

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Book jones.

I have a book jones. Have I ever mentioned?

Arleen Writes about her search for entertainment, for a book, not a romance, no history, not now and how she went to the store looking for entertainment and came back with "a vegetarian cookbook, and a how to cook tofu and soy products cookbook." I responded:

I try to explain to people why I have these piles and cases and boxes of books that I haven’t read and yet … and yet I stop off at the bookstore and pick up another book.

I picked up a copy of Stephen King’s latest at Costco on Monday. Ordered $50 worth of books from Powell's over the weekend, finishing off the $100 gift certificate I won back when. $50 gets you free shipping! (Ordered Domenic Stansberry THE LAST DAYS OF IL DUCE and CHASING THE DRAGON, Bradbury THE CAT'S PAJAMAS and BRADBURY STORIES: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales) This morning I ordered another $25 worth of books (free shipping!) from Amazon (Lukeman's THE PLOT THICKENS and Michael Collins DEATH OF A WRITER). … I have a backlog of books I want to buy, to read.

Someone somewhere within the last day or so explained it all. …

Excerpt from BLIND SUBMISSION by Debra Ginsberg. I can relate in several ways to the book-ish protagonist:

But reading was only part of the thrill that a book represented. I got a dizzy pleasure from the weight and feel of a new book in my hand, a sensual delight from the smell and crispness of the pages. I loved the smoothness and bright colors of their jackets. For me, a stacked, unread pyramid of books was one of the sexiest architectural designs there was. Because what I loved most about books was their promise, the anticipation of what lay between the covers, waiting to be found.

My discussion with Arleen continued in her comments tail. She mentioned King's EYES OF THE DRAGON (1987) and says she wrote an essay about libraries that sounds a bit like the Ginsberg bit I'd quoted.

I replied:

I once wrote an essay about how I felt about the library that sounded very similar to the bit you quoted, Sal. I can definitely relate.

I adore libraries. I love the stacks. I love the atmosphere. I love the variety. I love feeling like there is all this knowledge and culture and stories galore right here for the taking!

Folks I know with less of a book jones than I have always wonder why I don't use my libraries more and save the expense (even if it is usually a used-book/Goodwill expense) of buying books. But … well … if I don't have staff privileges that include forgiveness of fines, if I'm just Joan Public, I run up horrendous overdue charges at libraries. I check out books and then have them sitting around waiting forever to be read.
[Auntie K can testify to this ...] Or I forget I have a book. Or I can't find it when it's time to return it.

I love my stashes of books because — as the protagonist in BLIND SUBMISSION says — of the potential, the promise, the anticipation. I also figure if I ever rip an Achilles tendon and am laid up for weeks I'll have all sorts of different things to read, depending on my mood.

I think I may have EYES OF THE DRAGON on the shelf somewhere. I'll have to look for it.

And read it. :-)

Bookhuggers Anonymous, my name is Sal. I have a book jones.

I have thousands and thousands of books and nowhere to put them. When we moved, we had to find a separate location to keep my books because I couldn't give them up but we couldn't possibly keep them in our new home. We had no room.

Even with the spare space, I don't have enough room on the shelves I have space for to have all the books out. Many, many, many of the books are in boxes. Some of the boxes are adequately labeled: SOFTWARE DESIGN or REF or SFF/T or CKBKS (actually, not too many SFF or CKBKS are in boxes because most of those I have put on shelves). The boxes that are a problem are the ones labeled NFIC or MISC or VERY MISC. My job, and the job I keep putting off day-to-day week-to-week, is to sort those MISC and VERY MISC boxes into something more definitive so that I can say, "Oh, look. Yes. I do have three copies of AMO, AMAS, AMAT & MORE. I can give two of those to the Friends of the Library for their bookshop."

We have not had all our books in one place for years. The potential for winding up with multiple copies (one shelved here, one shelved there) is great. I am notorious for giving friends copies of books, saying, "I found a duplicate on my shelves and thought you might like it."

I hate to admit how many different dictionaries and thesauri I've come across while unloading (and I'm not through yet) the boxes labeled REF. Deciding to let go of a duplicate Roget's Thesaurus is relatively simple, especially if it's a duplicate paperback version, but what if the thesaurus is not Roget's and is not set out the same and is older, much older ...

When my two-years-older brother died five years ago, he divvied up his cash assets and his house between the three surviving sibs, with my younger sibs getting more of the $$$ and me getting fewer $$$ but getting his "stuff" and books (and the chore of clearing out his house for sale). I boxed all his books up and stashed them in storage and then moved them to our book space here when we moved.

His thousands of books and my thousands of books were well-matched. Our SFF collections matched up eerily, the Asimovs, the Poul Andersons, the Ursula K LeGuins. But then there were authors I had no titles for and Case had eight, ten titles written by SFF authors I'd never heard of. He had Analog going back for decades and from there back on microfiche (two microfiche readers, one in case the other didn't work!) going back to the very beginning of publication.

I had tons of titles he didn't. He didn't care much about crafting things, art, child care subjects, gardening, homemaking, writing or cooking. A BOSTON COOKING SCHOOL COOKBOOK and a BETTY CROCKER were what he depended on. I have probably forty or more shelves of cookbooks and boxes and boxes of "community" cookbooks, advertisers' cookbooks, 110 Ways To Make Rolls, 150 Ways To Cook Potatoes, small pamphlet cookbooks and more.

He certainly didn't care about Gloria Steinem. Well, he didn't have her books. No Wendy Wasserstein. No Ephrons. He didn't have much biography or biology or travel. He had far more physics books than I had, more computer hardware and tech. My computer books were usually software-related, but that made sense. He was the firmware designer and I was the software designer.

We both had copies of FIVE ACRES AND INDEPENDENCE. We both had living off the land books. He had a pamphlet on how to make C4 in your sink. (Why, I don't know. He had a wide ranging curiosity and probably thought the pamphlet was interesting. ...) I had fifty or more Christmas crafts books. In some areas our interests were not in synch and in others, our nonfiction collections were eerily complementary: I had my thick Morrison and Boyd. He had an equally thick inorganic chemistry tome.

I need to sort through all the books. Get rid of the duplicates. Get rid of the spy thrillers I'm not so keen on. Keep the stuff I would some day read. Keep the Walter Jon Williams book Case lent me back when, that I happened to have with me when I bumped into WJW and had him sign ... as a surprise for Case.

There's been a discussion over on misc.writing of Thackeray's VANITY FAIR, which I've never read. I know I have multiple copies ... somewhere.

I tried reading a copy online and bleh. won't work for me. I need to find one of my copies.

Do I have a HARVARD CLASSICS SHELF OF FICTION? I know I have the original 50v. set of HARVARD CLASSICS. VF is in the SHELF OF FICTION.

I probably have a Modern Library edition.

I wouldn't be surprised if I had something older.

I wouldn't be surprised if I had a paperback.

But where? In one of the boxes marked FIC?

Or in one of the boxes marked CLASSICS?

Or maybe in one of the boxes marked MISC or VERY MISC or in a box that's not marked at all or in a box that got dropped and shuffled so the box is labeled BIOL but has a copy of VF inside?

Book jones. Have I mentioned I have a book jones? The first step toward recovery is admitting you have a problem.

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