Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Great Bookpile Disaster of '08

Many of you who've visited my happy home know that I have a pretty massive bookshelf in the living room. (OK, whoever just said, "Where? I couldn't see it for all the piles of crap lying around!" can just shut the hell up.) It's floor to ceiling, and crammed full with books on the topics of history, more history, art, religion, science, travel... and history. It's where non-fiction books go. Some of you might also know that I have a bookshelf next to the fish tank in the office. It's where I keep huge-ass hardback books--my Complete Shakespeare is here, and my Lewis Carroll anthology--as well as graphic novels and antiquarian books. What 99.9% of you have never encountered is the Fiction Pile in the Back Closet.

While I don't read a whole lot of fiction these days, I do own a hell of a lot of it that's accumulated over the years. This store of mostly mass-market sized paperbacks can be divided into two categories: Science Fiction/Fantasy, and Everything Else. When I lived in Chicago, I had a little wood bookshelf that I'd built myself which was where the SF/F lived, and Other Fiction was at my parents' in storage. The little bookshelf got full, so I got another very little bookshelf to handle the overage, and that was fine. Then I moved, and moved again, and eventually my parents, unreasonable beasts that they are, asked if I might consider taking some of my books back into my own custody. So I had two little bookshelves of SF/F, and a cardboard box of Other. The cardboard box sat on the floor of the passthrough between my bedroom and bathroom for several years, until I tried to move it and it broke, sending a cascade of fiction onto the floor. A normal person would have seen this as a sign from god to build another damn bookshelf and get on with it. I saw it as a sign that god didn't want me to use the pass-through anymore, stacked the books loosely around on the floor, quietly shut both doors and began venturing to the bathroom the long way around.

Meanwhile, somewhere in here, the SF/F collection was growing--through no fault of my own, people keep giving me books!--and then one of the cats jumped up on the small bookshelf and then launched themselves to a windowsill, knocking the shelf over and sending books flying in all directions. Hm, I thought, this is a good opportunity to reorganize that shelf and fit in some of the additional books I've had sitting around... I'll just put them in the passthrough with the other fiction until I have time to do that.

I don't think I really need to spell this out for you here. This little closet-space was knee-deep in slightly musty, randomly-sorted paperbacks for over a year, and I was cheerfully and successfully ignoring the whole mess. THEN. Then, as is my wont, I suddenly decided I needed to find a particular book. (Peter S. Beagle's The Rhinoceros Who Quoted Nietzsche. But that's beside the point.) I opened the closet door, avalanches of books slid everywhere, and I was keenly reminded that I am a horrible, unforgivably lazy slob as I kicked my way through the seething mass of paper, dust, cat hair, and guilt. (I didn't even find that damn Beagle book. But that's beside the point.)

I took a vow that I would not rest until I had at least restored the sci-fi to its original home in the two small bookshelves, neatly alphabetized and dusted. I culled through the heap, removing books I'd never really wanted to read in the first place, duplicate copies of things I'd acquired who knows how, and finally had it winnowed down to the point where I could fit it perfectly on the two little shelves, just like the days of yore, and began to impose order.

AdamsAlexanderAnthonyBeagleBradburyBrinBurroughsBullCardCarroll(Jonathan not Lewis) ChestertonClarkeCrispinDickEddingsGibson (and more Gibson, and more Gibson) HandHeinleinHowardHughartKressLeGuinLewisLovecraft (where on earth did I get all these Lovecraft paperbacks with the ugly-ass covers?) McCaffreyMcCrumbMcKinleyMillerMoonMoorcockMorrowPratchettPullmanRobinsonRowling (British "adult"covers only, I happily chucked my ugly American copy of "Sorceror's Stone" into the bag to go to halfprice) StephensonTepperTolkienVarleyWangerinWellsWilliamsWillis and....and... DAMN YOU TO HELL ROGER ZELAZNY, I ONLY OWN ONE OF YOUR FREAKIN' BOOKS AND THE SHELF IS #@%$£¢ FULL!!!!

I swear, if Lord of Light hadn't been a gift from an ex-boyfriend I'd have chucked it right out the window then and there. I'm crabby when I'm optimizing.