Sunday, November 11, 2007

The bookshelfless

My first bookshelf in Melbourne was mostly books without shelf. I just put the books on the floor, that little known item of the house we mostly use to walk on. It served the purpose well, apart from the fact that books started spreading about everywhere and tripping everyone up as they came and went.

My second bookshelf I got just a few weeks ago, from IKEA. It hung together, in a sense, but more importantly, it had actual shelves for the purpose of shelving the books. Up they went, in no particular order, and they stayed there, more or less. The bookshelf seemed to serve its purpose adequately, albeit with a somewhat curious habit of creaking when the north wind blew, and growling at odd hours of the night*.

Today, I got about to the task of reshelving the books, sorting them in alphabetical order according to author. It's a habit I got into in Newcastle, principally because it allowed me to file the Bible away under G, for 'God' . As I was putting the books up this afternoon, all of a sudden, I found the shelves developing a rather alarming proclivity to display floor-like tendencies. That is, they all tended to fall towards the floor, presumably for the purpose of becoming one with the floor.

It's disturbing to think what would happen if the floor suddenly thought it was the ground, or the ceiling suddenly thought it was the walls, or the walls suddenly thought they were both. One tends to assume that common household items like floor and walls and shelves stay where they are and serve a single purpose. Maybe I encouraged the bookshelf to develop it's floorwards tendencies by my original habit of doubling up my floor as my bookshelf, but I ask you! Is it really too much to get a bookshelf from IKEA and expect it to stay that way?

It really does make you wonder whether it's better to have a bookshelf entirely without shelves, or maybe a shelf entirely without books: a bookshelfless or a booklessshelf. (Either way seems a little pointless.)

Anyway, in the process of restacking my books and my shelfs (which I for the moment did eventually get done), I racked up some interesting statistics:

- An impressive collection of works by S J Perelman, got over the period of little more than two years, and including one almost-impossible-to-procure edition of a Perelman musical written in collaboration with Ogden Nash**;

- Two editions of Hillaire Belloc's 'Cautionary Verses', one with illustrations by Belloc himself, the other with illustrations by Quentin Blake.

- A decent collection of James Thurber books - but by no means large enough.

- Two books by Flann O'Brien, which may have to be remedied (by which I mean, I need to get more, not that I need to give the books medicine).

- A growing collection of Raymond Chandler mysteries. (I would get more but for the fact that Chandler died before he could write many more of them.)

- A decent collection of works by C S Lewis, omitting some of his most tedious Christian apologetics.

- Poetry by Edmund Spencer, Wystan Hugh Auden, Langston Hughes, Wendy Cope, Walter de la Mare, Sophie Hannah, Edward Lear, and others.

- A growing collection of 'New Yorker' magazines, and assorted issues of ' The Spectator', 'Viz', and 'The Bulletin'.

- Various zines.

All in all, not bad for three years without shelves but by no means without books.

*Which is cool, because everyone knows if something like a bookshelf falls on you in your bed, you don't die, you just get all flattened out, like Flat Stanley. Which is cool.

**They really do look natty, what with their 50s and 60s covers and fonts. Plus, two have illustrations by Al Hirschfield. Do I sound like a wanker yet?


TimT said...

Some people might say that I have a shelfless dedication to the cause of literature. But I don't want to be too shelfish.

nailpolishblues said...

Oh, meant to tell you that I really liked this post but didn't have anything clever to say. Am going with sincere but lame. It doesn't fit well.

TimT said...

Hey, thanks. I enjoyed writing this post almost as much as I didn't enjoy my bookshelf collapsing on me.

nailpolishblues said...

Ah, so my solid wood does-not-come-apart bookshelf really is worth having? Thought so.

Email: timhtrain - at -

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