Sunday, November 11, 2007

Blame my Mom

I had a really good post planned. I was going to talk about the band I just barely hinted at in my last post (Nirvana and their Nevermind album) and expand it into a wider discussion of music, memory and influences. I had it all laid out in my head.

Then I had a short conversation with my Mother tonight and it's thrown me off in a whole different direction. So, if you're going to blame someone for the loss of my Nirvana post, blame her. Just don't blame her on Wednesday because that's her birthday and it would not be nice.

A few weeks ago, I did an impromptu spring cleaning of my book collection. It's something I've never really done before. I've always sort of looked at my library as a sort of organic construct - a jumble of piles and boxes and stacks that submitted to no logic except it's own. Sure, I could find whatever I would go looking for, but not before turning tall piles into other tall piles and finding some gem I'd forgotten about until that moment. I'd say that finding books involved quixotic quests. . . but then I'd have to go looking for my copy of Cervantes' tome and I don't have that sort of time.

So, anyways, I've been accumulating books since my early high school days. Paperback, hardcover, new, used. . . You get the idea. I still harbour visions of having my own library with floor to ceiling shelves, a gargantuan arm chair and a nice lamp. Unfortunately, my visions have tended to obscure the reality of having boxes and stacks of books everywhere. The tops of my bookcases are sort of like a literary version of Jenga (you take a book from the middle and then they all fall over and you have to stack them up again).

So, I finally decided to trim my collection. . . at least a little. I started off easy by digging into my collection of travel books. They were nice to have around, but I usually buy a new up-to-date book before I travel anywhere, so they were expendable. Once I started, it got easier. I soon moved on to small paperbacks, the penguins and new canadian library's. Old Stephen King's and some trashy detective novels I'd bought one summer when everything I read had to have fedoras and dames and stiff drinks. That's when it started to be fun. While I still was not sure what I was going to do with them (Sally Ann, most likely), I started to think of the cool books I could offer up. I started thinking of the books that I longed to find when scouring thrift store shelves of harlequins and pulpy thrillers. I've found Henry Miller's novels in Goodwill and Shakespeare nearly everywhere, so it became a matter of what treasures I could leave for the next bookworm with too much time on his or her hands. It was a game, seeing what I could give up without too much heartache. Tempting myself, daring myself, it was like creeping up to the edge of a cliff, seeing just how far I could force myself to go.

When I was finished, I had two big plastic storage bins full of books. It didn't really put a huge dent in my collection, but it was nice, nonetheless.

Next, I had to figure out what to do with the books. While I had recently seen someone set out a dozen or so books for people to take in my building's lobby, I didn't thing the owners would appreciate a small library's worth of books for kids to toss about and people to leave everywhere.

Thankfully, my parents came through for me. I think they just wanted to see physical proof that I would ever part with a book. They picked up the books and took them up to Barrie, promising to find a place where they would be appreciated.

How does my Mother tie into this? Well, as happy as I was to get rid of some books, I really wasn't that keen on doing it again any time soon. I had humoured my parents, had more fun than I thought and cleared a little room for maybe another book or two (you didn't think I could quit buying books cold turkey, did you?). So, tonight, I'm talking with her on the phone and she tells me she is taking my books to the library. I guess they are always looking for donations. And if the books don't make it onto the racks, they sell them in a small shop in the lobby. Overflow often winds up going to the local hospital. Not only that, but my mother knows of a person with special needs, as the euphemism goes, who is a compulsive reader always looking for something to read. A kindred spirit, I guess. So some of the books will likely head his way as well.

Thinking of the books going to the library, alas, has set my mind to racing. I got home from work tonight and looked at my bookshelves in a brand new way. Do I really need to keep books I've read or, even worse, will likely never read, just because they look nice on a shelf. Well, today, the answer has finally changed to maybe not (baby steps, baby steps).

I'm not saying that I'm getting rid of everything - I doubt my heart could take that sort of loss. I just keep thinking that by giving up some of these books, I'm giving them a chance to be read anew and that maybe this will lead to more people reading. Like Ice-T, but different, "I'm your pusher (of books)."

So, I'm packing up some great young Canlit by the likes of Emily Pohl-Weary and Russell Smith. I'm offering up some classics, some trash and some treasures. I'm even parting with some long time favourites, like Tom Robbins and John Irving (though definitely not A Widow For One Year - that book is a keeper no matter what). I think I'll even give up Dean Bakopolous' wonderful first novel "Please Don't Come Back From the Moon", but only to a good home. With fiction done, I'm dipping into the poetry collection, as well. And my collection of chess books? Both the ones I don't have the patience for and the ones I don't have the talent for will soon be finding a new home.

I do have to draw the line somewhere, however, so the library will just have to buy its own copy of Alayna Munce's "When I was Young and In My Prime". And so should you, for that matter.

It would take a procrastinator like me, to start his spring cleaning in the fall. . .

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