Monday, October 01, 2007

Mi Biblioteca Personal

The other day, I unpacked and set up my bookshelves. This was an unexpectedly emotional process for me. I hadn’t seen my precious, precious books in months during our move from the Lump to Bangkok, and I suppose I was subconsciously worried that I’d never see them again. Or that they’d all be moldy and damp and wrinkled. In fact, some of them are a tad discolored from some sort of mold, but overall they’re in tiptop shape, and since I actually took the precaution of wrapping my most expensive and treasured books (the Gothic Bible, for example), those came through just fine.

Adding to my verklemmt response to putting my books out was the fact that I’ve had these bookshelves for the past two years, but I never really got to face them in their fully-stocked glory, because they were in a closet. Seeing all my books finally on shelves out in the open, and marshalling them up and down a bit, I realized how much they mean to me. I also realized with a surge of pride that I shouldn’t have been worried at all, because since I’ve read almost every page of these books (aside from, obviously, a few bricks like “Increasing your Biblical Hebrew Vocabulary” and “Orlando Furioso Part Two”), it wouldn’t really matter if something happened to these books, because they are now, in some way, inside my head and make up who I am. I’ve been lucky enough to have money and time to read for pleasure for most of my life, which many people throughout history might not have had.

I’d ideally like to spend months and months describing to the world each book on these shelves and why I love them, in the style of Borges’ Biblioteca Personal - but at some point, reading someone else’s favorite books becomes like listening to the story of someone else’s dream. The intense personal associations that make dreams or lists of favorite things so vivid also make them dull reading. I mean, how could I possibly convey what I feel about Calvert Watkins’ How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of Indo-European Poetics? Words fail me.

So I’ll content myself for now with posting this picture of a couple of the best shelves. It doesn’t do them justice. Most of the pictures I took were too blurry to read the titles well. Maybe I’ll take some with a tripod or something later. Anyway, I’ll stop going on about how happy I am to see my books. And yes, you’ll notice that I sometimes arrange my books by color and size, like Pepys. I know it’s not the best filing system, but dammit if it’s good enough for Pepys it’s good enough for me.

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