Every time I change residences, I curse myself for having so many books. The number of boxes packed full is laughable. Also, very heavy. Perhaps it runs in my family. My Aunt and Uncle, both anthropologists teaching in South Carolina, rented an entire apartment for their books when they lived in a high rise. It made perfect sense to me at the time; it was like having a library next door. I don’t have nearly as many books as they do, but there are definitely a lot. My bookshelf is certainly not one of those sparse shelves that I see so often in homes used as pornography sets or in television shows. I’d like to have more plants and crappy ceramic sculptures than books. A small curated selection of titles should be enough, but it never is. I have attachments to books for reasons that are incomprehensible. I think I may “need” to look something up in some book I haven’t opened in a century or so or maybe someone I love gave it to me. Some books I can’t imagine not having available to me anytime of the day or night, even if I never actually open them. They are comforting to have on the shelf, looking at me as I slumber, perhaps reminding me of another time or place or mindset. Anyhow, I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t have at least a few books in the house. You might not be able to judge a book by its cover but you can find a lot about somebody from their bookshelves. Or lack thereof.
My biography resides in the bookshelves. The books themselves are a record of what I’m into, and hidden within the pages are reminders of times passed. Books are time capsules, scrap repositories, memories. I find photographs, postcards, airline ticket stubs, love letters, newspaper clippings and flowers tucked into texts. I leave things in books to surprise myself later. Some objects are there from the time I was reading the book. Others are put into books later, when I’m confronted by something I’m not sure what to do with. Putting a photograph in a book means it will be safe, but lost on the bookshelf.
It’s ridiculous to have so many books, I have to get rid of some. I rarely look at the books, I just move them from household to household and line them up on the shelf. When I have to look something up, it’s easier to find it online than by sorting through actual pages. Since the last time I moved, last April, I’ve been going through the books one by one, making decisions about which books should stay in my life and which ones should seek other shelves.
BOOKSHELF is a record of this process.