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June 15th, 2007

I had a birthday this week, and celebrated by buying the bookshelves I’ve been eying up for six months or so. These are shelves are a better grade of cardboard furniture than we usually buy. They are big and dark, and have a corner unit that makes it possible to wrap your room in books.

They also come un-assembled, with only a few less pieces than the 1000 piece puzzle I just finished. But strangely, not quite the right pieces, and certainly not the right number of pre-drilled holes to stick said pieces into.

This is why #2 son assembled them, instead of anyone else. #2 likes Legos, got an A in shop class, and doesn’t resort to profanity, even when the instructions specifically state that he should assemble the corner unit in a way that made final assembly totally impossible, several more steps into the process.

This job would have taken me a week.
If my husband tried it, he would have thrown something out a window by now.

But #2 son is finished, and I have three new book shelves. And it is early enough in the evening for him to make me supper, and bake my birthday cake, only one day late.

He is a man of many talents.

But now, I am left with the difficult decisions. Now that I have what Terry Pratchett calls “horizontal wealth”, how am I going to arrange the books?

I began by hiding the contents of the video storage unit in the cabinet at the bottom of my new shelves. We have been using this cabinet, mostly as a lamp stand, for the last ten years. It contains Beta video tapes. The sensible thing to do would have been to haul the whole thing down to the trash. But I live in hope that Beta will make a comeback, or that I will find a recorder at a rummage sale, and have a blow-out video trip down memory lane, glutting myself on 20 year old pirated Doctor Who episodes. AND THEN hauling the whole works down to the trash.

For now, they can act as ballast, to keep the shelves from tipping over.

Once the videos were stowed, I began unloading and sorting books. It has been several years at least, since the last trip to the USB, and even without the help of the Book of the Month Club, books of all shapes and sizes fall onto my house like a gentle, steady rain. They arrive so fast that I think more in terms of shelf space than titles.

I came back from a conference last week with approximately a foot and a half. And these books are keepers, things I want to read by people I know.

But next month, I’ll be going to the Romance Writers of America national convention. And they give books away by the sack. Even when I leave some behind, I always take more than I need to the extent that I need either an empty suitcase, or a visit to UPS to get them home.

And at some point, I come back down to earth, and am looking at the bookshelves like Ray Milland at the end of Lost Weekend, wondering what the hell happened, and why I need to find another five feet of shelving.

The least I could have done was not to get any autographs. When it comes time to weed the personal collection, there is an additional level of guilt when all the things you know you don’t really want, have “Happy reading Christine!” on the title page. It’s hard to throw away books that know you by name.

And some of these books come from chance meetings at book signings, where I’ve been stranded in heavy foot traffic between tables, or stacked up in line with fans of someone on one end of the table, only to have progress stall out in front of an author who is obviously getting no business.

In these situations, there tends to be the kind of awkward silence that you get in elevators, where you try to pretend that you are alone by staring straight forward. But it’s like being trapped in an elevator with a person actively trying to get your attention, but offering you free chocolate, or God forbid, a copy of her book. I remember being online for a Susan Elizabeth Phillips autograph, only to have someone come around her table, say “If you like her, you’ll love me!” and force the book into my hands.

Ahhhhhh. Thanks.

And now, with an inability to make difficult choices, or turn down freebies, I am trying to sort through an enormous and disorganized personal library.

The first decisions have been easy. There is an entire shelf of Pratchett, complete with Discworld figurines for bookends. There is almost as much Crusie, parital shelves of SEP, Jim Butcher, Elizabeth Peters, Janet Evonovich and Stephen King. There is an entire shelf made up of childhood favorites: Rebecca, Zorro, Tarzan, and Sherlock Holmes, The Prisoner of Zenda, Jane Eyre and Jane Austin. I smile whenever I look at it. There is a British overflow shelf for Douglas Adams, and P G Wodehouse, an almost complete set of Peter Wimsey, and a fair number of Georgette Heyers.

Shakespeare is on the other side of the room, along with a lot of other plays, miscellaneous classics, and a shelf of dictionaries. There is space beneath them for Bradbury, Asimov and Norton, once I’ve gathered in all the strays floating around the house. They can share with Agatha Christie.

Doc Savage and Nancy Drew are down near the floor. I may never read them again, but no way in hell can I throw them out.

And there is a half shelf of J K Rowling, with room for one more.

And, in the dining room, I have a stack ready to go to the library donation bin. It has four books in it.

Because I had duplicates.

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