Order out of chaos


In yesterday’s post I confessed that I had lain awake for two hours in the middle of the night indulging in the worst sort of revenge fantasies. Today I have another painful confession. For the last several years — years! — my books have been in complete and total disarray. Scattered among various bookshelves on three different floors, in some cases double-shelved, in no order at all. Really sad, considering not only how much I love to read, but how much I love to re-read.

Last weekend I decided enough was enough and launched Operation Take Back My Shelves. Step one, I decided, is to arrange the books on their existing shelves. Fiction, alphabetical by author (for now, although I have ideas for a different classification system which I will save for another post). Nonfiction, in general categories which I am making up as I go along. Step two will be to consolidate the categories.

So I got started on the basement books, which is the largest set of shelves. As soon as I started arranging & alphabetizing the fiction I remembered how fun it is to do this. First off, it is such a pleasure simply to handle my books. All of them have mental associations of one sort or another. Books that bring back my childhood (Little Women, The Robber Hotzenplotz, A Wrinkle in Time). Books that remind me of college (The Brothers Karamazov, Franny & Zooey, The Counterfeiters). Books that rocked my world (Fifth Business, The Chronicles of Amber, the Aubrey-Maturin canon). Books that I swear I will actually read some day (Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, One Hundred Years of Solitude, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court). My husband’s books, that make my heart overflow because they are his (Ringworld, The Birth of the Modern, Collected Poetry of Robert Frost). My kids’ picture books, long outgrown, that I can still recite from memory (Go Dog Go, Play With Me, Baby Animals).

Equally pleasurable is the alphabetizing. This will probably sound really weird, but I love alphabetizing. I’m really good at it, too. Fast and accurate. My very first job, and also my second job actually, were in libraries, back in the day when everything was still on cards and had to be alphabetized by hand. (Do you remember card catalogs? The drawers were gorgeous, smelling of wood and paper and glue, and sliding so smoothly. And the cards themselves: soft and fluffy around the edges. Sigh.) My mother can add columns of figures at lightning speed and with perfect accuracy because she worked as a waitress when she was a teenager. Me, I can alphabetize.

The process of alphabetizing is fun, and the results are sometimes amusing. Although I don’t attribute feelings to most inanimate objects, I definitely do it with books. I can’t resist the thought that books are happy (or unhappy) about their neighbors. For example, Philip K. Dick has ended up next to Charles Dickens. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch is actually touching Bleak House. I love both of those books, don’t get me wrong, but they should not be touching each other. Another one, possibly even worse: C.S. Lewis side by side with H.P. Lovecraft? I’m sorry but that is just WRONG. Keep in mind, the current arrangement is still provisional since I haven’t yet consolidated all the fiction. However it is highly unlikely that anyone will come between Dick and Dickens, those very strange bedfellows.

Stay tuned for further episodes detailing this Operation. Nonfiction will be up next, bwahahahahahahaaaaa!


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