I'm organizing the bookshelves, which is a terrible thing. Not terrible, but philosophical, more like awesome or awful. I suspect this effect is more pronounced with a smaller private library than under the efficient tyranny of the Dewey decimal system, which at least makes the trains run on time. Because I have too many books to clump them on one shelf and too few to make divisions absolute, I'm in a half thought-out literary limbo.
One is haunted by such questions as: do I make a humor section? If I do, does that mean that humorous short stories are filed there, or with Poe and Mansfield and Salinger? Tolstoy's War and Peace and Anna Karenina belong in Fiction, but doesn't Resurrection really belong in Religion? I walk back and forth among three bookcases.
Relatively straightforward sections are no less troubling. Yes, they're both non-fiction, but does The Rules really deserve a place next to The Prince? (Although in retrospect, they're more similar than you'd think...no, no, that book is going next to the other Non-Fiction Drivel such as What you Wear Will Change Your Life and a book on baby names I've have since junior high writing club.) All the Steinbeck will go together and all the Russian books, but can I put Naylor and Morrison together or is that oversimplifying the African-American female experience?
Then there are the logistics of shelves of a certain size. Reinventing Comics won't fit with the rest of Criticism and Genre, so it goes down with Anthologies. Can I put Shakespeares collected works in Plays, if it will free up some of the space down in Anthologies? And what on earth do I do with that tiny upper shelf? You know, the one that currently has seven of the thirteen volumnes in The Series of Unfortunate Events and a Mexican Spanish phrase book? What other books are short enough to fit there?
But despite (because of?) these challenges, the time has really flown by while I've been working on this project. It's nice to remember how I first read House of the Dead in a comfortable bed with the heater on in December, or how I came to own that copy of A Perfect Storm through a geo-cache game with my brother-in-law, or how much I liked that Revolutions class I took just for fun--the only class in which I announced my mission call.
It's a rediscovery of not just the books I own, but who I am, parts intregal (two copies of The Moon is Down--the book I did my honors thesis on while discovering the field of rhetoric; issues of inscape in which I've been published; the Communist-era tourist book of Petrozavodsk that a senile widow gave me) and superficial (why on earth do I still need the instructions for a camera I've DI-ed already? why did Kim Johnson have us buy that expensive recent translation of the Psalms if we were going to use the King James Version for our class anyway?) And somehow, by arranging these books around me, I'm ordering my life, setting myself in order.