Shelving Spaces

I have a huge space problem at my home when it comes to shelf space. I currently have 13 bookcases of varying sizes - 3 for DVDs, 1 for RPGs, 3 for science-fiction, 2 for mostly other books, and 4 for mostly comics/trades (supplemented by 4 milk crates and 19 long boxes) - and all of them are overflowing. I guess that's why absolutely nothing is in order. They used to be, before my last move... THREE YEARS AGO! Man, I suck.

I've decided to take a snapshot of that chaos before I remedy the situation (HA!), and well, always nice to discuss literary tastes on a public forum. Here then is my brown bookcase. Location: Living room. Contents: Mostly classic literature and religion. Number of shelves: 3.

Bottom shelf:A few well-perused anthologies from university, including that brownish one (a drama compilation with a makeshift cover), stand side by side with such largely unread essentials as Bullfinch's Mythology, James Joyce's Ulysses and Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. Classic genre fiction like Sherlock Holmes and Abbott's Flatland have to share a horizontal plane with newer stuff like the Best of Crank, an excellent anthology of alternative SF, and Alan Moore: Portrait of an Extraordinary Gentleman. Most precious is a book of Byron's poetry, a mentor's gift. Most likely to be OFFERED as gift: Borges' Labyrinths, since I have those stories in other formats. Plus, Catch-22, Vonnegut's Mother Night, a half-read copy of Voltaire's Bastards, an Outline of the Bible, the Making of 2001, a science book called Paradigms Lost, a flimsy art gallery booklet and a novel I picked up for 5$ and likely will never read.

Second shelf:
More Joyce, more Vonnegut, another science book (Hyperspace), but mostly, this is where my French-language books are hidden. There's my only Poe book as translated by Beaudelaire (Poe is generally acknowledged at being better in French). There's Dumas' Three Musketeers, some Ionesco, some Robbe-Grillet and a Dictionary of Symbols. Oddly, there are Monteigne essays and a Marie-Claire Blais novel translated into English. Perhaps even odder, the Life of Lewis Carrol and his Alice books are grouped together. Some plays, the best by Sam Sheppard, share the shelf with Swift, Nietzsche, Hesse and Cervantes. When I read The Creators by Daniel J. Boorstin, I thought it was a great way to learn about History. The Seekers is a follow-up I've yet to read. The Atlas of World History is nice too, its companion volume somewhere else entirely. I wish I had Burton's 1001 Nights, but the Penguin potpourri will have to do for now. Gravity's Rainbow is there because of a reference to it on the old John Larocquette Show, but it doesn't have a bite taken out of it (no? just me then). And the less said about that leather bound book on top, the better.

Top shelf:
Three themes really rule this shelf. The first is literary criticism, mostly delivered by Harold Bloom and Alberto Manguel, though Burgess also makes an appearance. Then, there's religion, with a couple of "Essential" books on oriental philosophy and faith. Finally, poetry: Two compilations of e.e. cummings' work, Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience with the plates pictured, Kazantzakis' modern sequel to the Odyssey, Dante's Divine Comedy in the best translation for my money - Dorothy Sayers' - and a Gérald Leblanc book, the best of our Acadian poets. A few Molière plays stack up on top. Odd men out: Burroughs' Naked Lunch, some humor book called Apocalypse Wow, and Frank Zappa's autobiography. The key works, however, are those big Borges bricks.

Top of bookcase:
When space is at a premium, you need to use every possible surface. While knickknacks like voodoo totems are bound to appear, it's the books that matter. More English and World lit anthologies (I love that onion paper), more Essential books on religions, more Bloom, and more Boorstin and Burroughs. Goethe's Faust stands next to a book of Letterman's Top Tens, which in turn leans on Pulp Fiction's screenplay. A well-represented author in my collection, Julian Barnes, has a single book on this bookcase. Short stories by Harlan Ellison, a couple of French-Canadian books of poetry, an anthology of Greek drama... and a book on the I Ching trying to escape entirely!

In the final analysis, I think I'd like to keep the anthologies, collections and mostly literary bent of this bookcase. The dubious "humor books" are probably heading for a packing box.


De said...

I'm usually finding that the humor books often given to me as gifts are read all of once and then never touched again. Chez Baisch is in the midst of a massive organizational upheaval and your post is comforting in that I'm not alone in literary disarray.

Siskoid said...

And I'd call this one of the more organized shelving.

Teebore said...

Glad to know I'm not the only one:
A. With tons of bookcases/shelving and still feeling like I need more
B. Who neglected for years to fully organize said collection after a move.

I recently moved again and swore I wouldn't let things get so out of hand. It's been six months and things are better, but still not up to snuff.

Boorstin's Seekers is quite good; I've read it but not Creators or Discoverers, oddly enough.

Bullfinch's Mythology is an old favorite, but Edith Hamilton's is my preferred book on the subject. I read it for the first time in elementary school and I still think it holds the record for the most re-readings of any book.

I'm quite certain much of my love for superhero comics comes from my repeated devouring of the Greek and Roman myths when I was a kid.

Fun post.

Madeley said...

"Bullfinch's Mythology" sounds interesting. What kind of book is it exactly? Or the Edith Hamilton one Teebor mentions, for that matter.

Sea_of_Green said...

It's really, really scary how many of those books are also on MY bookshelves.

Siskoid said...

Madeley: Collected and retold by 19th-century scholar Thomas Bulfinch, my edition contains the full texts of The Age of Fable, The Age of Chivalry and Legends of Charlemagne, and includes illustrations from a variety of sources, and maps as well.

So basically, all the major Greek and Norse Myths, Arthurian Legends, and the like, as well as texts on other polytheistic myths, creatures of legend, plenty of Celtic stuff, and the tales of "English" heroes like Beowulf and Robin Hood.

Sea: We'll see how my other shelves stack up!

Nik said...

Very cool and very voyeuristic! My wife just doesn't understand my own "theme" shelving. I have that Borges book and to my eternal shame I still have yet to read more than a bit of it.

Jayunderscorezero said...

I recently moved, so this really is an issue that's currently at the forefront of my mind, what with new furniture/bookshelves et al. Thanks for reminding me that I'm not the only one who thinks about this sort of thing.


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