Books

Somebody mentioned they were watching High Fidelity and I remembered how the vinyl geeks in the flick were forever reorganizing their records by weird categories of the moment. Yeah, so we all did that. Maybe not as geekily as in High Fidelity, and maybe we were never in bands as anti-climactically lame as the one that ended the movie (I fucking hated that band), but we reorganized our record collections. Alas, I’ve gotten rid of most of my record collection to feed my epilepsy medication habit (I probably have 400 LP’s left….) and reorganizing it just doesn’t hang anymore. It’s just sad. I only have four categories left. One is jazz. One is classic jazz. One is pre-Baroque music. And the final one is everything else. You know you don’t have many records left when one of your categories is everything else. And I just sold another batch yesterday. There’s no joy in reorganizing LPs when you barely have any. What normally would last all weekend now takes an hour watching Bob Ross on PBS. Funny little clouds indeed.

So I spent the weekend reorganizing my books. Getting rid of 90% of my jazz library suddenly opened up all this space so I was finally able to get the books out of the closet and shelf them. I did so lovingly. All these wonderful books, mostly hardcover, all non-fiction, any one of which could make me an excruciatingly dull person to sit next to at a cocktail party. Not to mention an annoying know-it-all on Facebook. It was a happy time, sorting and shelving books, Caetano Veloso on the stereo, three cds worth. (I’ve been on a Brazilian kick lately.) Finally, I tucked in the last book in the last spot. I was done. Project complete. I sat at my desk in the office (aka the living room… brickwahl.com maintains a homey work culture) surrounded by hundreds of carefully shelved books. I felt intellectual to the max.

Then as I lay in bed in the dark going off to sleep, the German inside of me began to grumble. Kein Ordnung, sie sagte, so viele Bücher und so ein Durcheinander. And the German was right, it was anarchy. Just a mess. This is what happens when I let the Irish me sort books. I glory in their words, I lay them out in random order, sprinkled like spring blossoms on an Irish hillside. But what I needed was them broken down by subject. So first thing this morning, as the Irish me slept in late, as usual, the German me came into the living room and worked my German engineering magic. Now right next to the desk is my linguistics section, while behind me are the history and science sections. There’s a whole shelf full of brain books. The surviving music books are tucked away where vinyl used to be. Beneath the desk is an enormous stack of to be reads, maybe a hundred of them. Stretched across the desk is a whole column of reference works, making me feel very secure. Next to me is a charming little collection of foreign language dictionaries, because you never know when you might need to say við hliðina á mér er heillandi lítill safn af erlendum tungumálum orðabækur in Icelandic. There’s a pile of coffee table books to my left, another bunch to the right. There’s even a secret stash of Penguin classics for when I want to read Xenophon xenophobically.

And I still have longstanding plans to get more shelves. And more books. Collecting music has lost much of its magic. Too many formats. Too easily accessible. I do it but it’s not as exciting as it used to be. Books, though…probably three quarters of the books in my library are not available digitally. Books are the last bastion of old analog bastards. Books and the boxes full of handwritten scrawl in my closet, daring me to digitize them. And the photographs. Thousands of them, unscanned. I had so much hair then, and looks, and charisma, and modesty. There must be a quarter century of photographs. Pictures of parties and gigs and bands and all these young people raising hell. There are even cat pictures. Good lord that will be a project. I’ll have a throwback Thursday that will last the rest of my life.

“Books, young man, books. Thousands of them. If time wasn’t so important, I’d show you something. My library. Thousands of books.” Elisha Cook Jr., as an old school lawyer, to Captain Kirk on Star Trek.

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