Book shelves series #52, fifty-second Sunday of 2012: In which, in this penultimate chapter, we return to the site of entry #1.
The first entry in this project was my bedside nightstand. This is what it looked like back in January:
This is it this morning:
This is the major difference:
The Kindle Fire has changed my late night shuffling habits.
Here are the books that are in the nightstand:
I read the Aira novel but completely forgot about it, which I’m sure says more about me than it.
Have no idea why this is in there:
But it’s a fun book. With pictures! Sample:
Finally, Perec’s Life A User’s Manual—this is one of my reading goals for 2013. It seems like a good way to close out this penultimate post, as one of Perec’s essays inspired this project
“Every library answers a twofold need, which is often also a twofold obsession: that of conserving certain objects (books) and that of organizing them in certain ways”
—Georges Perec, from ”Brief Notes on the Art and Manner of Arranging One’s Books” (1978)
Book shelves series #51, fifty-first Sunday of 2012
I am very ready for this project to be over. Two more weeks.
At this point, I’ve photographed all book shelves (and other bookbearing surfaces) in the house, but clearly the book shelves aren’t stable.
I mean, structurally, sure, they’re stable.
But their content shifts.
So this week (having three weeks left to fill), I go back to a sitting room in the front of the house where I like to read.
Above, resting on this cabinet, some current reading, including the latest DFW collection and Chris Ware’s Building Stories.
Below, a coffee table (first photographed in #7 of this series):
As usual, a few coffee table books, plus several review copies that I need to look at sometime next week:
One of the coffee table books is by Thomas Bernhard:
To the right of the case, a bin of books—mostly review copies that come in that I plan to write more about:
Book shelves series #50, fiftieth Sunday of 2012
There are fifty-three Sundays in 2012. I ran out of book shelves last week.
Here are some shelves/books from my office (work).
One wall is floor-to ceiling shelves—the whole wall—but most of the space is filled with files, folders, and professional books.
I tried to picture some of my favorite stuff—dictionaries, guides, and anthologies that remain inspiring.
There is also a little corner where I keep stuff I read in my office—review copies or other books that I work with when I have a spare hour.
Here’s a shelf (double stacked, as you might be able to see) that gets constantly shifted around. There are a couple of books about usage here that I like to bring into the classroom.
Of course, the best usage guide is Strunk & White’s classic:
This illustrated copy was a gift from some dear friends.
Joseph T. Shipley’s The Origins of English Words: A Discursive Dictionary of Indo-European Roots is a favorite.
Book shelves series #49, forty-ninth Sunday of 2012
Unless I’ve somehow miscalculated, this is the last book shelf in my house. It’s difficult to describe the room it’s in—sort of like a storage corridor that serves as an attic (my attic is tiny) with an ersatz workshop. Kids paints and art supplies dominate the top shelf; photo albums and year books the bottom. The middle holds all sorts of books that I can’t bear to get rid of, including a coffee-table history of MAD Magazine which is one of the first books I can remember begging my parents to get me.
There are also many, many back issues of MAD:
Also, lots of old books with out of date info, like a book about Jacques Cousteau, a book of Indian recipes which is more of a cultural guide, and this book of my home state:
Several old music zines (I should probably donate them to a zine library).
I have several dozens of these history packets called Discovery that I loved as a kid—they’d come with a booklet that illustrated the historical event in context, including opposing viewpoints, and they also had cool activities and games. I think they really helped me to learn as a child, and I can’t bear to get rid of them. Apparently Dennis Miller sat for the portrait of Guy Fawkes in the second issue.
The Science in Science Fiction probably deserves its own post it’s so wonderfully weird and silly.
Although this is the last shelf in my house, I said I’d do these posts each Sunday of 2012—and there are four more. I’ll visit the bookshelves in my office, the books in my car, take another look at the books on my nightstand (where I started) and then do a review post. Then I will never, ever do anything like this again.
Book shelves series #48, forty-eighth Sunday of 2012
Another doublestocked shelf: The front stack (on the right) are all books I’ve been intending to read at some point, or been reading slowly or piecemeal. Behind and to the left: Lots of old hardbacks—some Yeats, some H.G. Wells, Arthurian legends, and Shakespeare-related texts. A totally misshelved and out-of date Lonely Planet guide (why is it there?). Some Asimov. A few faves:
Book shelves series #47, forty-seventh Sunday of 2012
So this is what happens—books pile up. Okay, maybe that sentence is missing a clear subject: I pile books up.
This stack mounded on my record player over the last week; I intended to shelve about half of these:
My shelving solution is woefully short-term (more double stocked shelves).
Anyway, this shelf is mostly other media, including DVDs, a few records, and playing cards.
Of note (perhaps) are the three illustrated volumes on the left that I’ve had forever.
The illustrated Kidnapped features art by N.C. Wyeth:
The illustrated Kipling was actually my father’s:
Have you read Adam Novy’s novel The Avian Gospels? It’s good stuff.
Like many bibliophiles, I’m a sucker for plain Penguins:
Book shelves series #46, forty-sixth Sunday of 2012
Another double-stacked shelf. This one even has a stack of drifters.
This shelf is at my eye/arm level, and looking at it this way, I see that it gets a lot of shuffling—I can see where I started certain projects for the site.
I can see books that are in line, so to speak, for either proper shelving or for reading.
The mounding stack on the shelf below is a bit out of control, although most of what sits there comes from other places (I kinda sorta wrote about those here).
Below: Unsorted stuff that I’ve been reading of an afternoon:
This is the front stack—books that need proper shelving elsewhere, books that I’ve read (and sometimes reviewed here) in the past few months, or meant to read, or in some other way consulted or read from:
The far right side of the shelf—again, a very mixed bag. I think I originally intended to properly shelf everything here and then got sidetracked:
And here’s what’s behind the front stack—okay, I can see now the edges of an idea I had for shelving; I also see where I just abandoned that idea:
This whole project I blame on an essay by Georges Perec, collected in this one:
This is one of my favorite book covers:
More covers I like from this shelf:
Book shelves series #45, forty-fifth Sunday of 2012
Yon shelf, murky, dim:
Homeboy on the end, once my parents’, tschotchke of time in ’80s South Africa, used to work as a bookend, now he just hangs out on this double-booked shelf.
Back layer, including a number of volumes (to be clear: Chabon, Martel, Diaz, Eugenides) I should just trade in.
(Also: I hate this project and wish I’d never started it).
Book shelves series #44, forty-fourth Sunday of 2012
Not a particularly beautiful shelf—it sits between a TV and a soundbar; houses an unused Wii, an analog clock, and a picture of my kids. The books camouflage cords and wires.
You can see the whole shelf in the top pic. The big pic on the right: a Kokeshi doll set on Henry Miller volume that was a gift from a friend years ago in high school.
To the left: Bukowski, Miller, Anaïs Nin. Then, a section of stuff you can’t really see, including an extremely tattered copy of A Passage to India.
Lower right: Mass-market paperbacks that were especially important to me over the years and as a result have managed to hang around—even in cases where they were replaced by handsomer volumes. Usually obscured by the clock. Includes stuff by Borges, Carson McCullers, Hemingway, Twain, Chopin, Richard Wright . . .
Book shelves series #43, forty-third Sunday of 2012
Kind of a hodgepodge shelf—some literary biography, a few now-redundant collections, some literary criticism, art books, etc.
Tracy Daugherty’s Donald Barthelme biography Hiding Man is on the far left; I reviewed it a few years ago, taking note of my favorite part, the so-called postmodernists’ dinner.
Next to it is Susan Sontag’s Reborn, a collection of early journals that I also reviewed.
Next to these two is Sara Davidson’s Loose Change. My aunt gave me a box of books years ago (lots of Asimov and Octavia Butler) and this was in here.
I knew about it because of a long essay in a 2007 issue of The Believer.
I picked up Penguin’s The Essential James Joyce in Jimbocho, an area in Tokyo known for used bookstores.
I recall paying maybe ¥100 for it. It comprises a few selections from Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, some of Joyce’s (totally unessential) poetry, and the entirety of Dubliners, Exiles, and Portrait. I’ve kept it because of sentiment (and I like the cover).
Book shelves series #42, forty-second Sunday of 2012
Couldn’t really get a good pic of the whole shelf, so in portions, starting with a spread of postmodernist favorites from years past. Julia Kristeva was a particular favorite of mine in grad school, but her Portable stands up well outside of, jeez, I dunno, theory and deconstruction and all that jazz; there are plenty of memoirish essays, including a wonderful piece on Paris ’68 and Tel Quel &c. Sam Kimball‘s book The Infanticidal Logic of Evolution and Culture still maintains an important place in the way I approach analyzing any kind of storytelling. Love the cover of this first American edition of Foucault’s Madness and Civilization, which I bought for a dollar years ago at a Friends of the Library sale:
I may or may not have obtained the The Viking Portable Nietzsche through nefarious means in my sixteenth year. In any case, it’s not really the best intro (I’m partial to The Gay Science), but it’s not bad. The Plato I’ve had forever. I never finished Bloom’s The Western Canon, although I’ve returned to it many times in the past five or six years, as I’ve opened up more to his ideas. I wrote about many of the books on this shelf, including a few by Simon Critchley.
The book I’d most recommend on this section of the shelf—indeed, the entire shelf—is Freud’s The Future of an Illusion:
The end of the shelf moves into more pop territory, including two good ones by AV Club head writer Nathan Rabin. You might also note Reality Hunger, a book that I am increasingly afraid to go back to, fearing that I probably agree more with Shields’s thesis, even if I didn’t particularly like his synthesis.
Adam Thirlwell’s The Delighted States is an overlooked gem that should have gotten more attention than Shields’s “manifesto.” He shares a bit of Georges Perec (whose writing helped spark this project of mine):
James Wood’s How Fiction Works got my goat:
From my review:
Like most people who love to read, both academically and for pleasure, I like a good argument, and Wood’s aesthetic criticism is a marvelous platform for my ire, especially in a world that increasingly seems to not care about reading fiction. Wood is a gifted writer, even if his masterful skill at sublimating his personal opinion into a front of absolute authority is maddening. There’s actually probably more in his book that I agree with than not, but it’s those major sticking points on literary approaches that stick in my craw. It’s also those major sticking points that make the book an interesting read. I’d like to think that I’m not interested in merely having my opinions re-confirmed.
Book shelves series #41, forty-first Sunday of 2012
Lots of lovely books and mags with pictures.
Several years worth of subscription to The Believer, with an unsorted stack setting up front:
I suppose I could write a whole post about The Believer, which I think is an excellent mag but no longer subscribe to, but instead, here’s a cover from Charles Burns:
Charles Burns also shows up in this section, which includes stuff by R. Crumb, Daniel Clowes, Art Spiegelman, and more:
The wife got me a subscription to The Paris Review last year; then, some unsorted books, and then the Nausicaä collection (also courtesy the wife):
Nausicaä spread out on my couch. (My son and I ended up looking through them for an hour):
Book shelves series #40, fortieth Sunday of 2012
So we dip into the penultimate book shelf in this series, the one I shot last week in hazy hangover.
(This shelf is lower right; I’ll be working down to up and right to left).
Kids puzzles and a toy accordion block some books on folklore, history, and music.
As always, sorry for the glare, blur, and poor lighting. Blame my ancient iPhone 3gs .
A book my grandmother gave me a few years ago:
This is a wonderful old collection:
Pissing in the Snow: I’ve gone to that well more than once.
Kind of a motley crew here; the Barthes is misshelved but the lit crit shelves above are too full, so . . .
Musical bios. More of these are scattered around the house. I gave away a few recently.
Some of these books made it on to a list I wrote of seven great books about rock and roll.
Anthony Scaduto’s Dylan bio, which I, ahem, *borrowed* from my uncle years ago.
It made the rounds in high school but I managed to get it back somehow (but not its cover):
Book shelves series #38, thirty-eighth Sunday of 2012
The final entry on this corner piece.
What have these volumes in common? They are all aesthetically pleasing.
They are all too tall to fit elsewhere comfortably.
Several issues of McSweeney’s, some art books, and some graphic novels:
I’ve already expressed my strong enthusiasm for Charles Burns’s X’ed Out. The Acme Library pictured is part of Chris Ware’s series, and is beautiful and claustrophobic.
McSweeney’s #28 comprises eight little hardbacked fables that arrange into two “puzzle” covers:
I’ve also written enthusiastically about Max Ernst’s surreal graphic novel, Une Semaine de Bonte:
America’s Great Adventure is this wonderful book that pairs American writing (poems, songs, excerpts from novels and journals) with American paintings to tell a version of American history:
It probably deserves its own review. Short review: It’s a wonderful book if you can find it.
Book shelves series #37, thirty-seventh Sunday of 2012
Eggers, Dave. Beloved, reviled, sainted, hated.
I wrote about Eggers at some length here already, so I won’t repeat myself.
Book shelves series #36, thirty-sixth Sunday of 2012
Continuing the corner book shelf in the family room.
The bookends are tschotskes from a ¥100 shop; we bought them years ago in Tokyo.
Not particularly fancy but they have a sentimental value. (The big guy is a tanuki, if you’re unfamiliar).
The tin on the far left is filled with miscellaneous papers, old stickers, other small bricabrac.
Only four books on this shelf—the more-or-less complete works of J.D. Salinger, in gloriously ratty mass paperback editions:
Not sure if these are my wife’s or mine—probably a mix of both. I stole most of these from my high school.
The Catcher in the Rye was as important to me as any other book, I suppose. I wrote about it here.
Nine Stories contains some of Salinger’s most disciplined stuff.
It took me years to finally find the discipline to read Seymour, which is probably the best thing he wrote.
Book shelves series #34, thirty-fourth Sunday of 2012
A little end table next to the couch in our family room.
The books on top are little art books we keep out for the kids to look at, including People—
On the second shelf, along with a cooking magazine: The People Could Fly and Lynda Barry’s One Hundred Demons:
There are two drawers; one holds electronic manuals. The second holds McSweeney’s #33, the newspaper issue, which was pretty damn unwieldy:
A comic from the McSweeney’s by Michael Kupperman: