Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Unpacking My (Office) Library

Blogging grinds to a creak as I am settling back in, but I have begun setting up my new office, while cleaning out my home one (so many receipts one can amass in the span of a year!).  A book cull is underway; if anyone knows of good places to send books (I've gone with libraries, prisons, and overseas schools in the past), please post the links in the comments section.

Below is a visual representation of the unpacking, which I unfortunately will describe in prosaic fashion, unlike Walter Benjamin, whose evocative "Unpacking My Library: A Talk About Book Collecting" is one of my favorite essays in Illuminations. Over two days I've emptied 30 of the 32 boxes, many of which arrived in a state not unlike immense grapefruits that someone had pounded with a sledgehammer for two straight weeks--but being amply taped and filled with styrofoam peanuts, neither the books nor the bubblewrapped pictures and other memorabilia were any worse for the journey.

My new bookshelves arrived today, so the tomes will find their new lodgings tomorrow. My plan is, counter to my usual haphazard book organization method, to alphabetically arrange in advance (anthologies of and guides to creative writing, literary journals, etc. notwithstanding) all of my books of imaginative, critical and scholarly literature, so that they begin their stays on these shelves this way and will thus be far easier to find. Thus the stalagmites.

That will, I hope, obviate my usual comments to students that I have X book they should look at, which begins with me scouring my shelves to find it, only to not recall whether it is 1) on my university office shelves; 2) my Chicago apartment shelves; 3) my New Jersey home shelves; or 4) some former home or apartment or carrel in which I had the books, never to see them again. With alphabetical order at least in my university office, the process of elimination should be much easier. I also hope this will prevent my ordering multiple copies of The Harlem Renaissance Reader, for example, as I'm wont to do, good as this can be for the authors or estates of said books.

A new colleague passed by my open door and, after introducing himself, pronounced, "You don't have enough shelves!" We'll see.

(Perhaps it's just my collection, but there are far more books written by authors whose last names begin with M, B, H, S, D and C than the other letters. W, F, G, P, and A are not far behind.  K, it turns out, is somewhere in the middle.)

Almost no books unpacked yet
The boxes, stacked like ripened fruit, waiting to be opened
Very few books unpacked
The first few books, on the first few shelves (the clocks batteries are fused in corrosion, so it's right only twice a day, until I replace them)
My office, with only a few books unpacked
More books unpacked (visible, from what I can see: books by Patricia Jabbeh Wesley; the Windrush anthology of Caribbean British literature; TriQuarterly's Prose for Borges, edited by my colleague Mary Kinzie; and a study by Philip Brian Harper, I think)
My office with all the books almost unpacked
Most of the boxes unpacked; the tallest pillar at the back of the desk is "M"; at the front it's "C" (that's Anne Carson's Nox box perched just so)
My office with all the books, save 1 box, unpacked
All done, save for 1 box: I can see Kodwo Eshun's More Brilliant than the Sun, one of my favorite books ever, a Kevin Young anthology, and Palm-Wine Drinkard (at right, I think)
In my office: Paul Robeson
The image awaiting me in the new office: Paul Robeson, with fellow footballers, from his college days

1 comment:

  1. Your library puts me in agony and ecstasy at the same time. Love the books.... detest cramped quarters. Good luck as you complete the project!