The Library Project, cont'd

23 April 2002: Welcome to the full disarray of the Library Project, now well underway. Well past the point of no return, for sure. Most of the books are indeed stacked on the floor, or on the furniture. The top two shelves of the center block of the bookcase to the right - the green part; I'll get to that in a minute - has been arranged and catalogued. Behind the shiny dust jackets of first editions of P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, and Carl Hiaasen (along with The Corrections, Atonement, and one or two other instant classics) on the top shelf are two rows of American fiction. On the shelf below, behind not quite so many shiny copies of fiction translated from foreign languages (including three of Umberto Eco's novels in Italian), there are two rows of British fiction. The row in which each book stands has been entered in the 'LOC' field of the database that I've been keeping since Microsoft Access was a new program; most of the entries in this field are at the moment seriously outdated. Tucked away in the corner of the room are stacks of British and American fiction that are bound for our storage unit near the Queensborough Bridge.

The bookcase to the left has been rudely emptied to make room for books on music, film, and theatre, where it's possible that they'll stay - but who knows. The stack of books that seems to reach the bottom of the television screen is actually much closer to the camera, and well over four feet tall, and when it falls over, as it inevitably will, it will completely undo hours of sorting. I wish I were better at learning from my mistakes. 

We have always called this room 'the blue room,' because it has always been blue, although not the same blue, and because until very recently it served multiple functions. For many years, an oval dining table stood in the center, while at the far end of the room there was a convertible sofa. And, of course, bookshelves. What do you call that?  We still have a convertible couch, although it's somewhat smaller, and you can't see it in the photograph. We shall probably continue to call it 'the blue room' even after we've had it repainted green. 

We have certainly given blue a try. Three tries. The first was very dark, not quite navy but deeper than the blue on the American flag. The second, chosen by a decorator, was a sort of turquoise. The third (shown) is what I'd call an American cousin of French blue. The snapshot gives it an indigo quality altogether unapparent to the naked eye, but it is almost as cold. Perhaps the room is simply too badly lighted - I photographed it in the middle of a sunny afternoon - for a true blue.

Some time ago, I decided that the room would look much nicer if it were painted the shade of green that the Loeb Classical Library uses for the dust jacket of its Greek texts. Then, last Friday, with books already all over the room (see below), I realized that it would be very stupid to reshelve the books without repainting the shelves first. While I can't, with my fused back, paint the room itself, I can manage the book cases, and I can paint them in stages, too, so that there's no need to line up the entire library in careful rows elsewhere in the apartment, as I would have to do in order for a professional painter can do the job in a couple of days. The only difficulty was my fear of hospital green. Twenty years ago, Kathleen and I painted our bedroom what we thought would be a pleasant lime green, but within a week it was clear that we'd stuck ourselves with hospital green. I didn't want to make this mistake again. So I took my copy of the Oedipus cycle along with Kathleen to the local paint store. We settled on Pratt & Lambert's Parrot Green. In artificial light, it is indeed a tropical, not to say screaming, green, but by daylight it's the color of Granny Smith apples. If you have the first edition of Sick Puppy on hand, it's very nearly that green, as perhaps you can make out from the snapshot.

I spent the day today sorting non-fiction. History has its own book case, and is in pretty good order; verse and large-format art books occupy the new book case in the living room. This leaves - what? Music, Theatre, and Film, as I said - that's easy. Biography and Memoir - easy, too, although I've decided that biographies of Rockefeller and Morgan belong in History, and will probably set Literary Biographies apart as well. One rather surprising category that emerged on the impromptu was Literate Criticism, or Belles-Lettres: non-fiction by very gifted writers, such as Gore Vidal, Cynthia Ozick, and, of course, John Updike. I've got much more of that than I have of standard Literary Criticism. There's a modest pile of Law & Crime (Blackstone and The Run of His Life). Then there's what, innumerate humanist that I am, I call Science, a pile of books that are much harder for me to get through than late Henry James. Once a small stack of small-format Art books has been set aside, I'm with a collection of books on Sociology, Religion, Anthropology, Politics, Philosophy, Mythology, Psychology and Scripture that I have a terrible time actually breaking down into such headings. I'll say more about why in a future instalment.  For the moment -

Oh, no! Belles-Lettres just toppled into Judeo-Christianity, taking that four-footer with it! I supposae you'll want photographs. Instead, here are some earlier views of the Project.


Last Instalment of The Library Project

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