Monday, July 31, 2017

Priscilla Brown tries to cull her books

This contemporary romance is set on a dreamy Caribbean island, with not a bookcase in sight.
It was the fault of Shakespeare. Wanting to check the list of characters in Richard III before attending a theatre performance, I pulled William Shakespeare Complete Works from the non-fiction bookcase. Why had this heavy book been placed on the just-reachable top shelf? Not a practical idea; however, I did manage not to drop it and break a foot.  Not having looked at the tome for who knows how long, the first thing I did was remove the crumpled brown paper cover. I wondered why whoever put  it on (me?) thought it necessary to hide the title. Not as if I'd be reading  it on the bus, when a novel's lurid cover featuring a couple in flagrante delicto might require concealment.
Having sorted out Richard's relatives, I tried to return the book to its space, but in its absence a couple of its neighbours had moved in  No way was this chubby chappie going to fit. Hence, a re-organisation of the whole contents of the bookcase became unavoidable, a task still in progress, involving an embarrassing amount of dust, and regular re-fuelling with coffee and cake.
This particular bookcase holds almost all of the household's non-fiction except for my writing-specific books, and some encyclopedia-style and size which enjoy a bookcase all to themselves.Are all these titles necessary? Surely some could go to the recycling or to the charity shop?

During the re-shelving process, with smaller books on higher shelves, some go straight back into line, and Shakespeare has found a new home on a middle-height shelf alongside literary non-fiction. I can't help delving into other volumes, and I'd like share a couple.

 A small leather-bound copy of The Tempest hid next to its big brother, as if for protection from the complete works. The maroon cover is fraying at the edges, its spine has been "repaired" (not by me) with sticky tape, but the pages are intact. The inscription, written  in black ink in elegant copperplate handwriting, intrigues me. To dear Emmie, with sincere wishes for many happy returns of the day; the signature is a flamboyant and underlined Arthur, and the date is Nov.15th 07. (That's 1907 not 2007.) Pencilled on the back inside cover, a note reads November 1905, Trees Production. I have no proof, but am assuming Arthur was a relation of mine; he may have been one of my grandmother's brothers, or perhaps may go back further. Unfortunately we don't have a comprehensive family tree, and there's no one left to ask. I do remember discovering the book during a house move twenty years ago, but at that time had no interest in following up its provenance. I have no idea when or why it came into my possession. My writer's mind is now asking questions: Who was Emmie? She's dear, but how close were she and Arthur? How old was she on this 1907 birthday? Did they go to see the play together  in 1905? Maybe there's a story here, and in case, I've kept the book with my writing ideas.

The Atlas of Languages, subtitled The Origin and Development of  Languages throughout the World, is an account of language families. While it is not the kind of book to sit down and read as one might a novel, it is eminently readable and lavishly illustrated, with maps, photographs and diagrams; a treasure for anyone interested in the thousands of languages, linguistics and writing systems historical and contemporary. An aside: this title had been advertised, and when I went to the bookshop to buy it, only one copy remained. I and another potential purchaser reached for it at the same time. We smiled. He generously let me have it...we went for a coffee...(Well, I am a romance writer!)

Pausing to dip into several more books slowed the undertaking, but provided moments of reminiscence, of joy and of sadness. With three-quarters of the bookcase contents dealt with and nothing in the "dispose of" box, I admit to a culling failure. I can't part with anything. I will just have to buy another bookcase.

Happy reading! Priscilla