Thursday, January 19, 2006

Credit Where Due

I'm up to my eyeballs in sawdust; I have been intermittently building a big built-in bookcase (today's Boltgirl Blog is brought to you by the letter B) in the cozy abode's entryway since New Year's Day. Construction goes slowly with only one pair of hands and no more than 30 minutes' free time on any given day. Anyhoo. I realized I needed to replace the old bookcase (The Honker, may it rest in peace) once half the shelves had the books piled on them two rows deep. I don't collect many things, really, I don't, but the ones I do collect tend to be bulky and heavy (books and rocks). The book obsession has been lifelong but was strongly nurtured during my formative years by a pair of teachers and a pair of used booksellers they knew well (most people think the formative years are between two and five; in my case I know it was between 16 and 18).

This is one of them, Tom G., the main one, the ringleader. The best teacher I ever had. The guy who taught me how to write and how to think.

A guy who happened to have a room in his house completely walled with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

I house-sat for him the summer after I graduated from high school, and made it a point to copy down a list of all of the authors he had in his library. Some day, I thought, I will have a room like this. And I wanted to make sure all the right books would be in it. I trotted off to Northwestern U for college and promptly found and fell in love with Bookman's Alley (Evanston) and its proprietor, Roger Carlson, who loaded me up with more books than anyone who helped me move in subsequent years wanted to look at, much less haul up and down flights of stairs.

A large portion of my personal collection is fluid these days. Thanks to Bookman's in Tucson (no relation), there's great incentive for trading in volumes I probably won't read again for succeeding generations of one-time-reads. The core collection never gets culled, though, only added to. These would be the classics, both the stuff I read in school and the stuff I should have. If it's mentioned in Jasper Fforde's sublime Thursday Next novels, I try to have it on my shelves. Modern writers who have permanent niches in the core collection include M.F.K. Fisher, Andrea Barrett, Jeanette Winterson, Jasper Fforde, Jane Smiley, Roddy Doyle, and Ruth Reichl. Oh, and the Harry Potter books, of course. I have tried to get into Annie Proulx, but Shipping News just didn't do it for me.

Tom and his wife are going to be in town next month, but of course it's on a weekend that is already jam-packed with too many things for me to do. I hope to see them, and I dearly hope they can come by the house... and that the library is finished by then, and that when he sees my books he will chuckle in approval and recognition.

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