After an accident with the bookcase in the hall, this week, we spent several days walking round hastily stacked heaps (note to self: it’s about time you stopped living in a hazardous muddle!), and wondering if visitors would assume my hording was heading for the kind of proportions that appear on reality tv shows. On Sunday, what began as tidying my main TBR (aka overflow) area, became a stocktaking revelation.
For a start, the collections I had been making of Daphne du Maurier, Georgette Heyer, and Iris Murdoch novels, were much more extensive than I’d realised. Luckily, I’d only doubled up on one Heyer.
But hey, wasn’t this an ideal opportunity to make spaces for future bargains, or miraculous ‘finds’? After all, I’ve got at least six tatty old dictionaries.
Why so many?
Well, the first was an eighteenth birthday gift from a family friend, the second is the ‘Midget’ dictionary mum gave me when I started secondary school. It was designed to fit inside an average sized pencil case, alongside the pencils.
The third was dad’s old school dictionary, complete with ink stains and blots; the fourth was my aunt Judith’s school dictionary; the fifth was a 1932 Christmas present given by my Great Uncle Bill to my Great Aunty Jo, which means all of them are family heirlooms.
Damn it, I’m sentimental. How am I ever going to achieve minimalism?
As for dictionary number six, it’s a Collins Westminster Dictionary with illustrations. I couldn’t possibly ditch a resource that not only lists motor-cars, bi-planes and airships as if they’re the latest technological development, but also has this wonderful illustration for the Robot entry.
There’s no date, but it’s got to belong to the 1920s or 1930s. Imagine if it ended up pulped, or in landfill… I’ve put it back beside my 1901 copy of A History Of Police in England. These, I tell myself, will be invaluable writing resources, at some point.
Then, yippee, I’d forgotten about those two scandi detective novels I picked up. Ditto the Dorothy Whipple novel, Someone at a Distance. She’s been high up on my reading-radar for a while now. As has Gore Vidal, so I’m glad to find I’ve bought Messiah, at some point.
The surprises kept coming. I did distantly remember buying the two William Trevor novels, and Helen Dunmore’s short story collection Love of Fat Men. I’d regretted getting rid of my original copy almost as soon as I gave it away.
John Cowper Powys? Brilliant, and Marina Warner’s, Murderers I Have Known. I’m looking forward to trying her short stories. My copies of her books on myths, fairy-tales and legends have been useful for research as well as entertaining reads.
After such a reluctant start, I was finding the dusting and replacing not only rewarding, but uplifting. There was, it turned out, nothing on those shelves but promises of time-to-be-spent-profitably.
Will this comprise a reading list for this year? No.
Though it has encouraged me to face up to the two large dusty bookcases in my office.
It’s also made me think about some of the blogging discussions I’ve been reading on whether to plan, or not plan, a TBR list.
Sorting books has reminded me that part of the pleasure I get from reading, is picking out a title or author because it resonates with what I’m feeling. I might be influenced by the way sunlight is slanting on the cover, or the style and size of the font, it may be that I’m reminded of something else. The tactile elements are part of it too: the weight of the volume, the texture of the paper, and the smell of the pages, old or new.
The best simile I can come up with, is that it’s like walking past a restaurant where the wonderful aromas cause you to turn, and step back to gaze through the window, and read the menu, and check your purse, and then your watch, to see if this might be a good moment to treat yourself.