Friday, October 13, 2006

books! an addition to the ranks!


I whole-heartedly approve of Blacks, Latinos, gays, and even Freemasons mixing willy-nilly in our schools, businesses, and playgrounds. I'm a fervent believer that all humans are equal (of course, those of you who know me well know that in my mind, I phrase it 'all humans are equally evil' - but the point's effectively the same).

But when it comes to my books, I segregate ruthlessly.

There are four rings. In the outermost, the rectum of my collection, are the books steadily being culled from the shelves for a more-or-less permanent cycle of selling and trading. This cycle is of course vital to the life of my collection, but it's ironic, since my GOAL is to buy only those books I intend to keep forever. My outer ring is a wry, permanent testament to the fact that even when it comes to book-buying, my judgement isn't perfect (control your shock, my young Jedi!).

The next ring is by far the biggest: my collection at large. These are the dozens and hundreds of books lining the shelves of all my various dog-chewed bookcases. These are the books that take an afternoon to move on moving-day. These are the books I prowl every day, the books I re-arrange, the books that sometimes surprise me by simply being there ('when did I get THAT?')(or, as I confess I often find myself saying, 'when did I get YOU?'). Of course it's FROM these books that the to-sell books come, but that's not a worry: 95 percent of these titles are safe from any purge.

They're a miracle, really. In virtually all ages prior to this one, such a library - relatively minuscule (I'm fairly certain at least a couple of you in the Silent Majority have larger ones) - would have been the world's own envy of every reading individual.

And those individuals YEARNED for it, make no mistake. Books were rare and costly and unwieldy, and even the most avid readers usually didn't possess more than a couple dozen. And I'm always grateful for that, I am. History provides few more intelligent, hungry-minded individuals than Henry VIII, and I currently have ten times the number of books he owned in his lifetime. I have ten times the number of books Henry VIII had. This circle gets what the kids call mad props.

The next circle is far more exalted - they're the four or five dozen books that are invited into my room, whatever room I'm sleeping in, in whatever apartment I happen to live.

Some of you will know the tiny little nerd-haven I make of whatever room I happen to occupy. The outer apartment is one thing, but my room ... well, that's where the books I most treasure are. The ones I like to SEE every day. The ones I USE, which is the ultimate dream of every book ever written (and who knows if maybe a whole LOT of them don't get that distinction? After all, my room is duplicated by prisoners' under-beds and teenagers' window-sills, and they're filled with Stephen King and law books and Nora Roberts).

This is where you'll find my Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (a free book to the first of you who can tell me how many tons Thundra can lift - and no fair peeking! Do it from memory! Honor system, people!). Here you'll find my Readers Digest guide to North American wildlife. Here you'll find Clifton Fadiman's Little Brown book of anecdotes. Here you'll find all the good volumes of the Cambridge Ancient History. Here you'll find my beautiful Penguin collected Jane Austen (one big fat beautiful volume). Here you'll find my Chapman's Homer.

The books in this circle are exalted. They get boxed first and most lovingly in all moves. They get consulted, frequently. They never get sold and almost never get given away. They're heavily bookmarked, heavily annotated. They're my working books.

Today I had the rare and incredibly sweet pleasure of adding a book to that ring. Today I found Tom McArthur's edition of the Oxford Companion to the English Language, and I knew instantly that I'd found an addition.

This book is wonderful, plain and simple. It's the quintessential browser's paradise, since its brief rather predictably sprawls all over creation. After all, there's nothing in the world that doesn't fall under the rubric of 'The English Language.'

There's no way to fully convey the wonders of this volume. It roams, it digresses, it fulminates, it sneers. The entry on Shakespeare is worthy of independent publication, the entry on Old English could double as an introductory course on the subject. And the quips are just as good. Take this one on the subject of Humor:

As there are stereotypes of national humour with some support in cultural fact, so there are widely accepted if not wholly reliable notions about humour in former ages. England before the Norman Conquest, for example, is nobody's idea of a country full of wags and wisecrackers....

Hee.

So without further ado, I log in and add a book to the second circle. Of course, this entails removing a second circle book already on duty. In this case it's a volume called High Seas given to me by my young friend Sebastian (his comment at the time? 'You've been a-sea and all, right? I thought you might enjoy this more than I - sounds frightfully WET to me...'). Sebastian is a) too fragile and b) too distractable to roger, so his time in this room is extremely limited - he'll never notice the switch).

I know, I know - this entry leaves unnamed one further circle. The Oxford Companion to the English Laguage succeeds seamlessly into my second circle, but some of you might be asking, what about the first circle?

Well, the first circle, as some of you may know, are my Essential Books. These are the books I not only use but NEED. Several of them are the books I've travelled the world with, during my 'lost years' ... Here, in one bookcase, are my ... well, my indispensables: my King James Bible, my Ovid (in the original and five translations), my Juvenal, my Dryden and Byron and Sheridan and Shaw and Spenser and Tacitus and Ariosto and Jeremy Leven and Graves and Browning and Livy and Huizinga and Syme and Morison and the Venerable Bede .... my Homer and my Tasso, my Horace ... my Horace.

It's very, very rare that I make an addition to this circle, and it's always a cause of intense joy. The last addition was the Oxford World Classic paperback of Boswell's Life of Johnson, the original volume of which I VERY mistakenly leant out to a young well-wisher who a) will never admit that it's out of their depth and b) never sheepishly give it back.

So additions to this particular ring are exceedingly rare. You can be sure you'll hear all about it, if this blog lasts long enough to record it (and judging from the anemic level of reader-comments, that's damn unlikely)

And in the meantime, let's all welcome this addition to the second-most exalted rank of my book-world! Of course I invite all of you loyal readers to comment at length about your own book-circles! I know you have them - I've been in enough of your apartments - and I urge you to make a clean breast of it!

27 comments:

Kevin Caron said...

Thundra - I'm going to guess she can lift (press) 75 tons.

Now I'll leave that be, before the temptation to cheat overwhelms me.

My books are organized thusly:

In the studio (the wife and I are artists on the side) are all my comics in long boxes (7 or 8, I think, and bursting at the seams) that I'm not currently reading. A large bookshelf of trade paperbacks and non-superhero comics of all shapes and sizes that, while chock full of great stuff, would undoubtedly invite only scorn from Steve, for they belong not to the One True Genre. In many ways, this overfilled bookshelf is my pride and joy.

Also in the studio - art books, books on teaching, Norton anthologies, poetry, boxes of magazine backissues (Harpers, The Comics Journal, Ceramics: Art and Perception, and Ceramics Monthly, among a few others) and weird shit I don't know where to put.

In the study are the fiction and non fiction shelves (a bit more fiction than non), as well as a bookshelf full of plays. In the closet, Katie has a shelf of art books and children's books she uses for teaching.

Then, in the bedroom, on a smaller bookself Katie stained and gave to me for my birthday, are the books and comics that I'm currently reading, and a dictionary.

(oh, and in the bathroom, there's a little basket containing issues of Harpers, The Onion, and Previews).

No real heirarchy - when I'm not currently reading something, it just gets alphabetized in its respective section.

Kevin Caron said...

Crap. No free Marvel Handbook for me.

steve said...

You were eerily close, though.

Kevin Caron said...

Eerie my ass! I shoulda had that!

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Anonymous said...

Hey,nice blog!!! I found a place where you can make an extra $800 or more a month. I do it

part time and make a lot more than that. It is definitely worth a visit! You can do it in your

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Anonymous said...

Hey,nice blog!!! I found a place where you can make an extra $800 or more a month. I do it

part time and make a lot more than that. It is definitely worth a visit! You can do it in your

spare time and make good cash. Make

Extra Cash

steve said...

yeesh. enough already, ya damn androids.

steve said...

seriously, can one of you tell me HOW this happens? HOW this crawling bot-thing even FINDS this spot?

Beepy said...

Three very tasty entries. Thanks Steve. I, as you know, have no such system with my books. My books are as scattered and unorganized as my happy, marine mammal brain. I am constantly surprising myself by swimming by some delightful little book that I had completely forgotten that I had and couldn't find if I wanted it. Little tidal flows of literature.

John said...

My books are a mess, too. Somehow, I always know where they are. I don't think the part of the brain that allows me to do that has been mapped.

You know, Steve, I'm not generally grateful enough for the books you've given me in the past. Remember how today at lunch I showed you that guide to British Midcentury Poetry I'd just picked up? Well, I was reading it this evening & wishing I had some way to read a 20-year chronological SELECTION of the poets under discussion & LO & BEHOLD, there on my shelf was the new chronological Penguin Book of English Verse (ed. Paul Keegan) you'd given me YEARS ago. It hit the spot--I've been absorbed in it for about an hour now.

Which reflection, whouldn't you know, begs the question of how you could provide me with another wonderful experience to commerate my 30 years on earth (Nov. 18th). The Oxford English Language book you wrote so entertainingly about just now might ... well, I don't know, but from the lavish description you gave it... it sounds like it might be just the thing.

Cotter said...

KEVIN-- Shame on you, boy! "on the side" my ass!

steve said...

I wondered how long it would take for 'John Cotter's ass' to make its debut on this blog ... and now that it's here, we'll have a devil of a time getting rid of it ... sigh ...

Kevin Caron said...

Huh. As I scrolled back to see what I said to invoke John's ass, I noticed a similar reference to my own made a few comments before. So that's both our asses hanging out on this page.

SteveReadership shall either triple or plummet, surely.

steve said...

30 years on Earth! I assume we'll be celebrating in a funeral parlor, with dirges and sackcloth? I mean, what's the POINT of life, from 30 on?

steve said...

So the personal libraries of Beepy and John Cotter are perfectly compatible! Can ROMANCE be far behind?

Encouragement to Beepy: Relax - it's REALLY close to the lesbian sex you're familiar with

Encouragement to John: Once you go manatee, you never go back

steve said...

John - I take the compliment VERY seriously, as you know. I absolutely TREASURE the idea that the books I'm giving out are being KEPT long enough for their recipients to grow into needing them (so if, for instance, I were to give one of you "Hamlet II: Ophelia's Revenge," the LAST thing you'd want to do would be to turn around and immediately sell it). WONDERFUL to hear it's still happening.

steve said...

Seriously - can one of you more technically-oriented explain to me how I'm coming to the attention of these ghoulish, automated fake-responses flogging stay-at-home money-making schemes? Can one of you explain it in layman's terms (looking at you, Jeff...)?

Anonymous said...

There are some settings on your Blogger control panel that will help curtail that kind of thing. Under the Comment Settings is a section called "Who Can Comment?" Pick the option there called "Only Registered Users".

All your posters are registered users (except me, but that's only because I've been lazy), so that should do the trick.

-Jeff E.

steve said...

So Beepy and John's personal libraries are in blissful unison! Can a torrid romance between the two people be far behind?

Encouragement to Beepy: Relax - it's REALLY similar to the lesbian sex with which you're already familiar

Encouragement to John: Once you go manatee, you never go back.

Kevin Caron said...

That comment was funny enough to post twice.

Beepy said...

Nice one Steve. You managed to verbally poke me and John Cotter all in the same comment. You wouldn't think that kind of opportunity would arrise that often, would you?

By the way, if you took Jeff E.'s suggestion, I'm not sure that my posts would make it. I haven't registered for anything.

Anonymous said...

I noticed, Beepy, that your name doesn't appear as a link like the others but I can't figure how you are making that happen without registering with Blogger. As a non-registered person it seems to me that I can only post anonymously, so I figured you had registered.

If Steve decides to get tough with the spammers I don't think registering is too much of a hassle. On the other hand, ignoring the spam posts isn't much of a hassle either and allows for the occasional innocent bystander to post, like the high school kid who railed against Anthony Burgess.

Since Steve does everything democratically, perhaps we should take this issue up with the full council.

-Jeff E.

John said...

A vote it is! I think it's a bad idea to make all users register since I wouldn't be able to link my name back to my webstie (which, if you notice, I do). The way I link to my site (& the way anyone can comment by name) is by clicking the circle called "other" located between "Blogger" and "Anonymous" & just typing in your name (& if you have one, website). I will illustrate below.

Chloe Sevigny said...

If John knows what's good for him, he'll keep his hands off of Beepy, & get them both onto me!

P.S. -- SteveReads is HOT

john said...

Chloe! It looks like we share a birthday! Why in heaven's name haven't you told me before?

steve said...

A) Steve most certainly does NOT do everything democractically. Steve hates democracy and everything it stands for. Steve is, rememeber, better than the rest of you.

B) Beepy is not a 'person' - she's a manatee. Maybe that's how she successfully defies blogger's iron rule.

C) Chloe, for being the first to state the obvious - that stevereads is, in fact, HOT - you get a free book! Since John pointed out you two have the same birthday, I assume he'll be sleeping with you tonight (it's a tradition) - so make sure he gets your mailing address so I know where to send your richly-deserved prize!