Saturday, January 19, 2013

Dewey Decimal Doesn't Live Here

I'm not one who makes resolutions at the start of a new year.  In the past I never kept them, which is disheartening.  It is far better to make a resolution that will last for only the day.  If it works out, it can be extended to the next day and then the next.  If it doesn't work out no harm has been done since the resolution evaporated at midnight anyway, unless it was revived.  This year I made a decision, however, and that is far more liberating than a firm pledge.  I want to read from my own library this year rather than buy anything new.  This decision came about as I tried to get organized.  I may fall off the wagon as the year rolls forward, but how bad can that be?

So, on to the organizational effort:  I've been slowly adding my library to Goodreads.  Slowly because it takes a considerable amount of time to pull them out, one by one, note the ISBN numbers, dust them and put them back on the shelf.  Climbing up and down the step ladder is great exercise, which is a bonus, and I figure it counts as my daily "work out" plan.  Who knew reading was so healthily cardio-vascular?  I'm up to 222 entries; there are hundreds more to go, so it will be a long term project and I fully expect my thighs and tush to look splendid by summer.

This library project reacquainted me with books I never knew I had.  More correctly, at one time I knew I had but had forgotten I did.  And what marvelous books are living here!  I do believe that if I was cast away on a deserted island, or up on a mountain top in Tibet, with no contact with the outside world and without much knowledge of it, I could cover my education quite well if these books were with me.  There are certainly a few clunkers and some pulpy fiction; but, they could only work to make me a nicely rounded human being.

I managed to hang on to a great many of my school books - from kindergarten on.  So, I imagine if I was dropped on that island or mountain top as a child who knew the alphabet, I would be able to start with the reading primers and eventually work my way through a degree in history or English lit, or, for some reason...botany.  I only recall taking several biology classes in high school and none in college, so I am not certain why I have so many books that cover photosynthesis, geotropism and Gregor Mendel.  I suspect some of these were the result of my newly gained interest in gardening when I moved to the Southeast; others must have belonged to my children.  I would be able to learn German, Spanish and Latin...and psychoanalyze myself, taking notes in Gregg Shorthand, seeing as I have volumes 1 and 2 of "The Diamond Jubilee Series"!  I can actually still read some of the squiggles that make up shorthand.  Unfortunately, if I wanted to learn Greek I would be out of luck, but I would be able to discover Why The Greeks Matter and that John Adams thought it was sacrilege that his son, John Quincy, was not reading Demosthenes at school.  I do not believe I have anything by Demosthenes, but I haven't been up and down all the bookshelves yet, so there may be some surprises in store.

What I have found so far, not surprisingly, is I have a great many books about history - ancient, European, American, Russian, modern...but I was very surprised to see that I have so many by or about Presidents, politics and First Ladies.  de Tocqueville once observed that there is hardly a political question in the United States which does not, sooner or later, turn into a judicial one.  So, naturally, a girl needs a compendium that contains everything she would want to know about the Supreme Court and its decisions.  Oh, and also a compendium on skin care, diet and an figuring out what hair style looks best with her face shape.  That is a very important reference work as well.  Sherlock Holmes, inspecting my bookshelves, would deduce that I was avidly interested in the Civil War.  He would be correct - as always.  He might also be embarrassed to learn that I was deeply smitten with him and have followed his every sleuthing moment...repeatedly and without the dog-eared detriment of The Complete Adventures of himself.  Of course, considering his ego he may find such adoration "elementary."

There are volumes of mystery, murder, mayhem, ghostly tales, spies and the Classics.   Christie and Sayers and Poe and Wilkie Collins - they stand around with their cocktails and canapes and get along quite well, carrying on some very interesting conversations about poison.  Gertrude Stein is, as usual, talking about herself and boring everyone within earshot.  Sylvia Plath just looks morose.  I think it's because she can't smoke in the house.  Ron Weasley is trying to find a Horcrux and Sigmond Freud is just trying to find himself - a total couch potato if there ever was one.    Sweet ole' Bill gossips about what an honorable man Brutus was, but would bury Caesar in a heartbeat rather than praise him - and we all know it.  He is a sloppy drinker and spilled red wine on my carpet.  "Bill, shouting 'out damn spot' does not work, trust me."  Someone, hand him the Woolite.

There aren't many volumes of poetry, but the ones that hang out here are good ones.  I admit, they need more friends.

There are books on sailing, knitting, sewing, and home decorating, but not about sailing while knitting.  Now that would be one interesting book!  There are volumes that teach the techniques of watercolor painting and how to make decorative gift boxes and objets d'art using dried herbs.  And then, of course, there are the cookbooks.  I never met one I didn't love.  At the public library Big Book Sales, my internal GPS guides me directly to the table where they sit in all their plump and promising splendor.  Assuming I could find the proper ingredients on my island or mountain, I could cook the world.  I even have a book on The Story Of Cutlery (a prize find at a book sale and probably the only one still in existence...for good reason, I'm afraid).

I've also joined a self-imposed "2013 Reading Challenge" at Goodreads.  Sixty books in one year.  Unfortunately, even though we are only in mid-January, Goodreads informs me I am already "two books behind."  Not encouraging news.  The first book I've selected from my library is John Adams, by David McCullough.  I believe it won the Pulitzer Prize, but I must have purchased it before the award was announced because the dust jacket does not bear the Pulitzer logo that later editions do.  In any event, it has been sitting patiently for over a decade, waiting for some attention which I am happily giving it.  I am currently a third of the way through and am mesmerized by every sentence.  (At over 700 pages, I wonder if I should count it as two?  It's a thought, but I imagine it would be cheating.)

So on and on it goes.  Up the ladder, down the ladder.  Dust, note, replace.  Eventually I would love to have the books themselves truly organized in some efficient and meaningful way - as they are in a well-kept library.  Little chance of that in the near future.  As it is, they rub elbows with the oddest neighbors.  But personality conflicts aside, the community remains peaceful...and I'm working those glutes.