I was going to put this in the comments of Brian’s original post, but I’m on the masthead, so I don’t have to.
Like Brian, I too relocated in recent weeks, moving with my wife and our cat to New York City. As with most moves to NYC, we have been forced to cram all of our stuff into a space considerably smaller than our previous apartment. Casualties so far include a couch, a dining room table and chairs, and probably 200 books.
There was some joy — or rather, less pain — in passing good books to good friends. It was also a relief to clear out the duplicates and accumulated junk of old college texts (multiple books with the words ‘Critical Theory’ and ‘Introduction to…’ in the titles), jettison the unread Bargain Bin impulse buys we’ll never read (The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, Robert Asprey), and to let someone else try and finish half-read volumes that had been tormenting me for too long (Collapse, Jared Diamond). In the end, though, I would have preferred just to keep my books.
But in this case, it’s not the journey. It’s the destination. We weren’t as forward-thinking as Brian and his floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. We now have a mismatched assortment of completely filled shelves, and books on top of those shelves. Paperbacks are piled up in windowsills and on bed-side tables. The stylish book tower that once held cleanly spaced editions of my sexiest volumes is now a thick utilitarian stack of things that look nice and other things that just fit. Cookbooks are actually in the kitchen now. Coffee table books are actually on the coffee table. Hardbacks commandeered a small case for DVDs and CDs, which have been sent off to a nice Goodwill Store upstate where, my wife assures me, they will have lots of open space to run and have fun.
I have no idea what this means. It’s just chaos right now. When we want a break, we head up to the roof deck where we can gaze into the uncluttered apartments of nearby buildings. I’d have to guess that the author we have the most of is either J.K. Rowling, Marcel Proust, or that Twilight lady — though it’s possible that last one was lost in the move. No telling how many Carvers or Pynchons or Atwoods are scattered throughout. I can tell you how much Hemingway (0). I tried to read him. It was boring. The window was open. I drank wine. It was still boring.
What would Rorschach say? I’m sure having everything alphabetized on one wall is great, but there’s something else great about seeing books everywhere I turn. And not knowing where anything is means rediscovering a lot. The Need to Re-Read list is growing, which is good because we have no room for anything new. If nothing else, you can see in this arrangement some reflections of my reading tastes, where I tend to favor large, crowded, entropic novels with lovely covers and great ideas scattered all over the place. I’m learning that I enjoy it this way. In our new place, I can hardly stretch my arms out without hitting something that I like.
- Michael Moats