Monday, April 9, 2007

The books of our lives

My clutter situation is always teetering on the brink of total mayhem. There are areas, however, in which I've had some clear victories. The second floor hallway used to be impassable because of boxes and debris. Now it is impassable because of dog beds and laundry--which means it is now functional, rather than dys-. And much of my yarn stash (though not all) has moved into the future mudroom--but really, that's as much as I'm willing to say about the future mudroom. That particular topic is now closed.

Other parts of the house vary. The living room is a mess, but one that can generally be cleared swiftly by returning toys to their homes. The foyer is a constant battle, but right now it's not too bad, if you overlook the perennials in temporary residence. There is a corner of our bedroom I simply refuse to see. Same with much of the guest room, where the computer is. The kitchen, because of Passover cleaning, is immaculate (yes, Mom!)

However, there are changes afoot. The bedroom corner I can't see (imagine me sticking my fingers in my ears and humming real loud, only visually) is slated to house Z.'s bed, which currently is shoved up next to ours. A.'s office, which until recently was mined with 2-foot-high towers of books, is becoming a back-up play space. There are a few big plastic storage bins in various locations that need to be moved so other big plastic storage bins can take their places.

All of this means that we need to clear paths and free up storage space, and ultimately that means getting rid of books.

Why is it that I hang onto a book even though I look at it and know I will never read it again? Beyond a doubt. I will never have another occasion to open Of Grammatology, for instance. I didn't even need it in graduate school. But there was a time when it mattered a great deal to me: that I had committed to literature, rather than sociology; that I had undertaken the project of understanding deconstruction; that I was taking that particular seminar, and was associated with the professor who taught it, as my mentor and friend. And yet--that time in my life will not be altered retroactively if I no longer keep the book on my shelf. I should get rid of it, and at least another shelf's worth like it. But I can't bring myself to take it down yet.

Which brings me to my question: what books do you still have on your shelves that you know you shouldn't?

5 comments:

liz said...

The earlier books in some series where it took a while for the author to really get going. But I'm a completist.

S. said...

Oh, see, I think those are totally worth the shelf space. I can easiliy see myself re-reading, say, sub-par Ruth Rendell (From Doon with Death, anyone?) several times over the life of my library.

niobe said...

I have way, way too many books. Sometimes I put boxes of them out on the curb with a sign that says "free to a good home." I'm always happy when they're gone.

Lo said...

I have parted with everything I can possibly bear to. That is the one thing I hate about living in my beloved city...

Scrivener said...

Don't ask me, because I can't get rid of books either. I find it really, really difficult to imagine getting rid of my copy of Of Grammatology even though I will never read it again. I do (and will probably continue to) periodically pick it up and leaf through it in the hopes that I'll find the few passages from it that have really stuck with me, but then finding that it's a book that is completely and utterly impossible to flip through to locate such stuff, I'll simply replace it on the shelf. But get rid of it? No way. Honestly, if I did then the first time I saw a cheap copy at a used book store, I'd buy it. ;)