Wednesday, July 2, 2008

a single instance of OCD in a life of disarray ...

the brunt of my personal effects: books. rubbermaid after rubbermaid of books. a read, unread, soiled, stained, dog eared, highlighted, forgotten, remembered, furniture propping, broken binding'ed collection.

i tossed the mess willy-nilly onto the shelves, like i was bailing water from a boat. quickly, so the apartment looked less like carlson's bookstore, and more like a place where you wouldn't necessarily need a sherpa to scale the joyce carol oates collection en route to the bathroom. then i wrote on a summer to-do list: organize books.

i take my book set-up pretty seriously. while i have no problem filing away a recipe for matar paneer in the same space as my 2002 taxes or storing my fingernail clipper in a wicker basket filled with inkless pens, the books have to be in order.

in my old apartment, it started with nonfiction -- alphabetical by author, unless it's the unauthorized biography of madonna or zelda fitzgerald or edna st. vincent millay, then it goes under subject. then the fiction, alphabetical by author and within author by title. [i've considered chronologically within author, but since that idea failed to spin so erratically as to force recreational nyquil use, i'm going to forget it for now.] then came poetry and plays.

i had, in my spare room, a bookcase filled with unread or unfinished books.

there really is no reason to have my books in this kind of order. it has only come in handy, like, once during a party when i said as pretentiously as you can while wearing a shiraz mustache: that reminds me of a scene from maggie cassidy ... let me see ... and immediately snagged the book from the shelf and opened to the appropriate dog-earred page.

i was cruising tivo yesterday, when i noticed out of the corner of my eye that margaret atwood's fiction was touching susan orleans's nonfiction. i had to be somewhere in like 15 minutes, and so i did what all anal retentive peopple who aren't anal retentive about anything else do ... i started organizing.

i got the first shelf done: nonfiction, butted by early-alphabet fiction.

later, i explained the set-up to chuck, in gross [as in disgusting] detail, concluding with a new feature i'm very excited about: the of-interest shelf.

this shelf contains new books, recently purchased books, books that chuck has told me about and wants me to read or vice versa, things spotted amid the current shelves that spark an interest, whatever. it's like a shelf of to-read items. it is my single, greatest invention.

today i told chuck i wanted to go buy new running shoes, come home and alphabetize. and so that is what i did. filling the non fiction, finding more, pillaging shelves and reworking it. it looked like the book mobile had crashed through the front window.

"see, what i'd really like to do is go through the fiction and make alphabetical piles according to the author's last name," i told chuck. "why don't you play some music?"

he played an emmylou harris record.
"what if we went totally analog," he said. "books and records."

then things got silly.

"hmm ...." i said. " 'the handmaid's tale' ... fiction or non?"
"fiction," chuck responded with an accent. "slowly moving toward non."

and we laughed. oh how we laughed.

eventually chuck went to the basement to introduce more of his own collection. he heaved boxes onto the floor in front of me and i went through them like the shipping and receiving agent at your local barnes and noble.

"what?" i said. "sorry, i'm shelving ... um. jewish history."

the integration of our books has called for new shelving genres. we got a little whacked out considering if the complete works of shakespeare counts as poetry or drama ... we went with drama.

"um, we need a mythology section," chuck said.

we also added reference, as i think it is gouche to shelve "how to write" books in plain view. but even within reference, there needs some sort of separation that i can't yet consider. cook books, wine reference, how tos ...

we ran out of shelves before the s authors, which probably means we're going to need at least one more six-foot bookcase. it's becoming obvious that we should sell the tv and stop washing our socks. we have work to do, here. we have books.

"ah, yes. we have that book. it's in the lesbian farming section," chuck joked.

we actually have that section.

"but what about this collection of woody allen's comedic stories and plays?" chuck asked, holding his book.

this whole thing has me a bit stumped.


Sproactually said...

Last time I moved, my boxes of books were marked this time, I did have to explain the other markings on the boxes to my helpers.

NSHMF=No shit heavy Mo. Fo.

Thats why I use the public libary now, and just simply add the books that I would like to read to the mid hudson library inter loan list and they show up.

Oh yea, I get my 47 dollars worth in taxes for library every year.

The ladies even put books aside for me when I come in.

Its all very sad.

They just need more copies of lost for season 3..

Tamara said...

i have two black bookshelves that I would be willing to part with that would meet your needs. They are too dangerous for houses with little kids. (They invite too much climbing.)

They are about six feet long and about 4 feet high, with three shelves, if you don't count the top.

Email me if you're interested:

We're moving right now, too, so we could drop them off to you or you could come over to pick them up...

Anonymous said...

did you seriously just spend time explaining this? ;) fannie

CDP said...

"hmm ...." i said. " 'the handmaid's tale' ... fiction or non?"
"fiction," chuck responded with an accent. "slowly moving toward non."

That cracked me up.

I have a book system, too, but I'm OCD about all aspects of my household, so big deal. Key to my system is the fact that all of my favorites are stored on the top 2 shelves of one of my bookcases...this way, if I have time to rescue something during an emergency, I just sweep the top two shelves into a box, and I'm out. After the kids are out, of course. And assuming I can find a box...because boxes are messy, and they're broken down and put in the recycling box immediately.

Damn it. There goes my system.

L Sass said...

I used to organize my books, but then I became obsessed with making them visually appealing. I turn some on their sides, stack them in weird ways, etc...

At the next apartment? Who knows what the system will be!

Jodi said...

I think we need to see pictures of the sections, I am oddly fascinated by your method of organization. I think the trying to define topics would leave me paralyzed and all the books would just lay about the floor for weeks.

Beverly said...

I think you guys are homeschoolers and just don't know it yet.

Clare said...

I've often thought about organizing my books based on the color of their spines, so that when you look at the bookshelf, it looks like a rainbow. I think you've inspired me to tackle that project over the long weekend.

Amy said...

are you sure you don't want a part time shelving shift at the bookstore? i'll hook you up. you can attach this post to your application.

Mach1 said...

My organization method is by height and by hardcover vs. paperback. The only flaw is I don't always like how the colors of the spines look, but the cascading effect of books-by-size works for me.

Princess Wild Cow said...

I, too, have and ocd book mania, but working at BN means I have far too many to organize, much less get out of the boxes. Take a look at this website and consider arranging your books like this:

Tamara said...

I got a new bookshelf for Christmas 2005...and it's still in its box waiting to get assembled. I desperately need it, but can't convince Mike to drag it upstairs and put it together for me. :-(