Thursday, February 09, 2006

Confessions of a Book Addict

I sit on the floor of the living room, packing tape in hand, with the Exorcism of Emily Rose playing off TIVO in the background. The two bookcases in front of me were filled long ago, with double rows forming on the bottom shelves as odd novels migrate from the rest of the house, displaced from coffee and end tables by the latest best sellers. I reach onto the bottom shelf and pluck up a handful of hardbacks. Edward Rutherford, Alice Walker, Tracy Chevalier, Robert Massie, Nicci French. Keep. Definitely keep. Anita Shreve, Caleb Carr, Dorothy Sayers, Michael Crichton. Also keep. I work my way into the classics: Bronte, Dumas, Hugo, Tolstoy, Austen, Eliot, Kipling, Stoker, Shelley, Stowe. Must keep. I mean, seriously, these are classics. If I toss them now, I'll just buy them again later, and how efficient would that be?

I manage to find some to donate. The old Reader's Digest condensed stuff from my grandmother is first in the pitch box, soon followed by some old law school textbooks, Pilgrim's Progress (does anybody actually like that novel?), and a bunch of religious texts and lawyer-joke books given to me by various relatives stuck for a Christmas present. Eventually, I start culling the "real" books. Alicia Valdez' Playing with Boys was nowhere near as good as The Dirty Girl's Social Club. Buh-bye. I never could get into Four Spirits. See ya. Crichton is generally good, but The Lost World frankly sucked. I'll keep Timeline, though God knows why. As interesting as The Shipping News or Song of Solomon were, I know I probably won't reread them. Some books, like movies, you open again and again. Others you read once and that's enough. Like people, some plots just click. I've given up trying to explain why. I used to think that I "should" like certain pieces: dark, deep novels with a certain complexity in the imagery. English major stuff. Now, I know I can't force it. I like what I like, and am unfortunately equally likely to reread an old Agatha Christie mystery, Ludlum thriller, or Piers Anthony pulp sci-fi as I am Pride and Prejudice, Things Fall Apart, or Memoirs of a Geisha.

Then come the hard choices. I'd picked up some books I'd loved as a kid. Okay, to be honest, on the top shelf of one of my closets I have about all the children's books I ever owned stashed away, from the Nancy Drew mysteries to the pre-teen "why can't I have a horse?" books. I'd only added to the mess by picking up some of the Great Brain books and a Trixie Belden mystery at a recent garage sale. Instead of boxing them, I pick them up and take them back to the bedroom. I stand there for a moment, staring up at the pile of children's literature gathering dust on the shelf. I know shouldn't keep these. They aren't meant to be paperweights or dust collectors, they're living, breathing stories. I should sell them, pass them on. On the other hand, their stories belong as much to me as to the characters: The Sherlock Holmes collection I was reading in the maple tree in the backyard in fifth grade while we were cleaning out the old wooden two-room doghouse in the backyard to make a "fort" only big enough for three kids to fit in. The "real" Hundred and One Dalmations by Dodie Smith in which Perdita is not Missus Pongo and never was and who are you calling a liar? The Hardy Boy mystery read by an eviscerated night-light at two am on a school night after I'd pushed a pair of old jeans under the door so my parents couldn't see the light was on, which scared the crap out of me when I'd snuck downstairs for a Susie-Q because I thought that the broken clock on the living room wall had suddenly started to tick and maybe that meant there was an intruder in the house or a ghost or something and nobody is awake but me.

I call my best friend, who has a daughter going on two. She'll take the kid's books for me. I'll pack those tomorrow. I'm writing my name in them, just in case.

Besides the two donation boxes and the box I'm giving to a friend, I fill three bank boxes and two computer printer boxes before I finish for the night.

Only one shelf more to go.

Then I can start on the other living room. . . .

By the way, did I mention blogging will be light in the near future?

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