Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Book Ends ...

I'd been looking at my bookshelves from the safety of my couch.

For quite some time now – maybe months – I'd been telling myself it was time for another round of culling.

And Friday became that day.

I grabbed a chair from my office (in lieu of a step stool) and pulled the first book off the top shelf.

I held it, debating the dust jacket. It was torn. It should go into the trash. I pursed my lips. I put the book back onto the shelf.

Friday, I quickly realized, was not the day.

But then Sunday was.

With no plan, no first-thing-in-the-morning "Today is the day I tackle my bookshelves!" resolve, I once again retrieved the chair and started pulling books down and sorting them into Keep and Not piles on the big leather ottoman in the middle of the room.

Sentimental though I often am, I was ruthless. The stacks grew at equal paces, becoming rather Jenga-like in their teeteriness, at which point I started filling other surfaces.

Sorting completed, I looked at my mostly empty shelves and thought, "Huh. I need more books."

And then I laughed. Way to entirely miss the point, Beth.

I reorganized what remained of my collection, leaving space on each shelf, needing bookends, which, happily, I had. My cousins had given them to me several Christmases ago, and while I used them to support a small collection of antique books decoratively, I was finally able to put them to their real use.

I was feeling a fine sense of accomplishment, until I remembered all the books that I had previously stashed behind the doors at the base of the bookshelves. So those were sorted, too. Some of them made the cut but stayed stashed. Many others were added to the teetering piles.

But then the bookshelves on the left side of the fireplace looked so ordered and airy that the bookshelves on the right side of the fireplace – the home of all my cookbooks – looked leaden and dense.

So I made a pass at those, too. Many fewer were culled from that collection, but I made room on those shelves as well.

All in all, 180 books were set aside.

Some, I will give away to friends who want them. Some, I will sell. Some I will donate to Goodwill.

And I am pleased to be free of the sense of "But what if I need that book someday?"

Then I will find a copy of it somewhere.

But I know that there is a 99.9 percent chance that I will not need any of those books again someday.

As coincidence would have it, not that I believe in coincidence, on Friday I watched a few minutes of one of Angelo's episodes of "Rate My Space." He was proposing a wall. The homeowners were reluctant. They liked their open space, even if it didn't function for their needs.

Angelo, ever the kind diplomat, said, "There's the dream of how you want to live your life: 'We want everything open and wide and big!' That's great. But then, how do you really live your life?"

They agreed to the wall.

So there's the dream of how I want to live my life – of course I'm going to read Doestoevsky's "Crime and Punishment" again! – and then there's the reality of how I live my life.

"Crime and Punishment" is in the sell-or-give away pile. Along with "The Brothers Karamazov."

And I feel all the lighter for it.


Blogger Frances Kuffel said...

Someone on Facebook posted this to my wall because I'm going through exactly the same thing. This year I've gotten rid of hundred of VHS tapes, enough clothes to keep Manhattan fashionable, and now books.

I feel for you. I'm currently stuck on Iris Murdoch. I love her but I'm 57 years old & onto a new research project. I'd like to get rid of one book case -- but most of my bookcases are double-booked, which means twice as many books as it looks.

I'm donating mine. I can pause over Murdoch because I have two or three bags to take to the donation center. I live in Brooklyn, so it's all on foot & that gives me the luxury to dither.

Because I'm not ready to dither about Chekov this week.

3:52 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Ah, yes, the VHS tapes. I ran across some that were stashed behind the doors with the books. I still own a VCR, though it's not hooked up. For the moment, I'm telling myself that I could have the tapes transferred to DVD. (They're tapes of family movies and such, not titles I can buy in a new format.) My movie VHS tapes will probably end up at Goodwill, too.

Enjoy the dithering. And the resumption of shedding when the time arrives.

4:09 PM  

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