Words, words, words, art.

The Blatherings Of A Blitherer

Books, a Love Affair

April22

There’s lots of ways to divide people into groups. There’s people who love the country and those who love the city; there’s people who love poetry and those who don’t; there’s people who love George R R Martin and those who don’t; there’s people who understand binary and those who don’t; there’s people who think Carrot Top is funny and everyone else; and there’s people who buy and own books– lots of books!– and those who don’t.

My friends are pretty evenly split between book owners and book renters (library users). Both groups love books and love reading, but one group invests money, time, and physical space on acquiring and housing books and one group invests their money, time, and physical space on other things. One group has stacked bookshelves, stacks of books, piles of books, mounds of books, and one group doesn’t. One group has to schlepp tens of (heavy) boxes of (heavy) books up and down stairs when they move, and one group doesn’t.

I’m in the first group, and I’m kind of getting tired of it.

When Nesko and I had a kid, and that kid started becoming mobile, we had to move all of our books to much higher shelves. We got rid of all our tall free-standing bookcases so Niko wouldn’t pull them down on himself. Then, about a year ago, it looked very seriously like we would be moving very soon, and to much smaller quarters. I proceeded by acquiring large numbers of boxes and putting things into those boxes, preparing to move. I packed up 14 large boxes of books (as well as three really big boxes of board games and 3 huge boxes of kitchen stuff). Then all those things stayed boxed up for months and months and we didn’t miss most of it. I did miss some things. I wanted to play a few of the board games we had packed away, I missed my extra mixing bowls and glass pyrex measuring cups, for instance. As part of spring cleaning we opened up our boxed up kitchen things and got rid of most of them. We unpacked our games and weeded through them, stripping some down for parts (tokens, money, dice, etc) and setting a few aside to give away. Those we’re keeping are on shelves in two categories: 1) Keep 2) play and see if we enjoy them, if not get rid of them.

Meanwhile our books are still packed up and I haven’t NEEDED to get into any of those books and we’ve permanently acquired very few new books. I’ve checked out and read almost 70 new-to-me books from the library this year, and after reading them I’ve returned them. There’s a very small handful of those books that I would have liked to keep forever. And more and more I like an apartment that isn’t cluttered with STUFF, especially as we have an apartment that’s crammed full of toys and kid books and games.

When I packed up the books, I noted what books where in what boxes. I have an entire inventory. (I did the same for the games and kitchen stuff.) I’d been meaning to type that list up and I finished doing so the other day. Every book that was packed away for storage is now entered in a spreadsheet. It was emotional. I thought of all those books and how much I love books, and how hard it was to find some of those books, and how other books were gifts from people who know me really well and love me. I have a bunch of books on Celtic history that Nesko brought back from a layover in England, from when his trip to Montenegro was cut short because of the bombing. I have a bunch of books I spent a long period of time tracking down and spent serious money on purchasing and shipping. I have books I’ve read and re-read time and time again, and I have books I’ve read once or twice only. And I started thinking of winnowing down our book holdings.

And I had a mini panic attack.

Seriously, I felt anxiety! There were surges of emotions! I felt like I was betraying my books! Isn’t that weird? I have synesthesia and apparently part of that is sometimes people who are synesthetes anthropomorphize inanimate objects and ascribe emotions to that. Books are inanimate! They don’t care what happens to them! But I felt like I was abandoning them, like they wouldn’t be loved if I got rid of them.

I also panicked because OMG what if I NEEEEEEEEED THESE BOOKS down the line? OMG what if all libraries and the internet cease to exist and I no longer have access to this information? Panic panic panic panic. But that’s silly, too.

I went through and I highlighted about half the books, marking them to be gotten rid of. I calmed down a bit. I might go through and mark more to get rid of. Of the books I’m keeping, a bunch are books I think Niko will like to read when he’s in middle school which isn’t that far off any more. I don’t want to get rid of books just to re-purchase them or whatever.

I remember, as a kid, always having something to read at home. My dad’s a book collector, not in a serious OMG HUNTING DOWN FIRST EDITIONS kind of way (although I think he would be if he had more disposable income) but in a bibliophile way. I grew up with shelves and stacks and mounds of books: books in the living room and in the bedroom and in the kitchen and on the couch and in the bathroom and on top of the tv. There were so many books there was always something new. History books, poetry, literature, fiction, memoir, science. That feels so normal to me. It’s honestly weird to have, right now, a single shelf only for our owned books. I feel almost naked!

And, weirdly, I feel defensive. Like I can’t prove I read books. No, really, I read a lot! I’ve read hundreds of books! Don’t judge me by the scanty offerings on my shelf! I’ve read everything Roger Zelazny has published, you just can’t tell because his books aren’t on display! I’m a Tolkein fan, an Ellen Kushner fan, A Cherie Priest fan, a Lois McMaster Bujold fan! I have a first edition hard cover of Scott Lynch’s “Lies Of Locke Lamora”! I LIKED HIM BEFORE HE WAS COOL OK. I have most of the run of “Blade Of The Immortal,” I have the Johannes Cabal books published in the USA! I’m cool! I’m a legit nerd/geek! REALLY I AM. I’M SO COOL YOU GUYS. LOOK AT THIS SNAPSHOT OF HOW COOL I AM, HOW WORTHY, HOW GREAT AND QUIRKY MY TASTE IS. JUDGE ME. JUDGE MEEEEEEEEE.

We will be moving again at some point.

I’m tired of hauling books around.

I’m tired of not having enough space, not having enough shelves, not having enough flat surfaces.

I’m becoming one of THOSE people, a book renter instead of a book owner.

From now on, I’m only going to keep books that are really and honestly meaningful, books that I love, books that resonate, books that I return to again and again.

Eventually, I think, I’m going to get a Reader or Tablet and start buying electronic versions of books I enjoy. But that’s out of my price range at the moment, and I do resent the DRM included on most traditionally published books.

If you live in Chicago, let me know if you’d be interested in a big book swap party at my place. We can all bring the books we don’t want/need any more and trade for other books, and anything left over I’ll donate to our community center to sell at a book fair fundraiser (or use in their classroom).

Having made the decision to get rid of books, to literally cut my book collection in half, I’m already feeling lighter. It was a struggle to get to this place, but it feels good. I still experience moments of BUT WAIT–! freakout but they’re coming less and less. Letting go is hard, but it’s something I can do.

Hoarding and Purging

February11

For those of you who don’t know me very well, I have some Hoarding tendencies.

I put “hoarding” with a capital H because it’s not just that I like getting stuff and keeping it near me. I feel safer and more complete when I’m surrounded by crap. This is an issue, I know. It’s especially an issue because we don’t have a huge amount of space, and all this crap collects dust and takes up real estate both physical and mental. Over the past few years, I’ve been paring down on a lot of our crap, which is often a challenge, because Nesko and I are both collectors and are both also completionists.

We also have smart phones that we can read electronic versions of books on, and a hard drive that can hold a lot of electronic books.

So I’ve been purging lately. I currently have 5 cloth grocery sacks full of books that I’m taking to the community center to donate for their next book drive. I sorted through my unmentionables and tossed out a bag full of underpants and pyjamas and socks that are unpleasant. I’m going to rifle through our closet again and toss things. I’m ordering CD/DVD wallets into which all of our CDs, DVDs, and game discs and booklets will be inserted, and all our jewel cases are going OUT THE DOOR.

And then there’s the garbage. Do I really need a giant teetering stack of small cardboard boxes? No. A garbage fall full of plastic grocery sacks? No. Stacks of grocery receipts from ten years ago? No. Homework from when I was in high school? No. So that’s going out the door, too. I managed to harvest a big bag of paper recycling just from my desk top. There are only so many used envelopes I need for note taking, you know?

It’s hard, physically and emotionally, but it’s also liberating.

 

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Things are going to change!

September4

For those of you unaware, ScaryGoRound is ending on the 11th, and will relaunch as something new with less of an imposing archive. John Allison does NOT get the credit or attention he deserves, and Bobbins and ScaryGoRound have both been really excellent strips. I’m excited about what’s coming up next.

Nesko has Monday off (Labor Day!) and we are going to celebrate by working our butts off trying to get the new place ready. The ceiling and possibly some of the walls in the bathroom still need to be pulled down, cleaned out, let to air out, and then replaced. I think the sun room is entirely painted. Once we’ve gotten the living room finished (it’s about 1/3 painted) and the dining room finished (not even started) we’re going to start moving stuff over– mostly all of the boxes we’ve packed so far (books, book, books, extra kitchen stuff, board games, books, out of season clothing) and furniture we don’t use as much. Once that’s out, we’ll have a lot more room here and I’ll post some of the extra furniture we have for sale on craigslist (an old but awesome cabinet sewing machine, some small shelves, a bread maker, maybe a rice maker if I can find all the parts, some chairs).

I am so looking forward to the new apartment. It’s going to be really lovely when we’re done with it, and next year we’re going to start work on the common areas (front and back entryway/stairs), clear out the parking area, do some landscaping, etc. It will be a lot of work, but the building is fantastic.

I got my hairs cut on Wednesday. That’s right, I got all of them cut! I don’t know if I mentioned this, but part of my post partum life has included massive hair loss. Just… chunks of hair coming out. This is normal, but not often talked about. I developed two bald patches that are now thickly furred with new hair. The fallen stuff IS being replaced. However, hair is still falling out and clogging up the drains, getting all over the house, etc. So I got my hair cut pretty short and I love it a lot. Every time I get my hair cut I think “Oh! I love having short hair! This is so great!” and then I go through that awkward growing out phase and HAAAAAAAAAAAATE, and then it’s long again and I think “Oh! I love having long hair! This is so versatile! Also if I cut it I’ll have to go through that awkward growing out phase that I hate!” and I keep it long for a while and then cut it again. It’s the circle of hair life, you see.

I borrowed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance – Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!, and it was pretty ok. Some of the zombie stuff was tightly integrated to the plot and just really, really worked. Other stuff stuck out obtrusively and was kind of gross-out slapstick. The fact that so much of it was so well integrated made the crap stuff even crappier. I don’t regret reading it and if someone I know has Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters I will try to borrow and read it as well. However, I wouldn’t pay for either of these books. I do want to re-read Pride and Prejudice (Penguin Classics), and luckily for me I’ve found it on Project Gutenberg.

In babby news, he is sticking out his tongue, sitting up, eating peaches (millions of peaches, peaches for free), and generally being adorable.

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Moving and Packing

August22

We are, obviously, not going to be able to move into the new apartment by the end of this month. Which, yeah, means we’ll have to pay an extra month’s rent on this crap hole we’re currently in (I use crap hole in the literal sense, here, as every time someone upstairs takes a crap and flushes the toilet, water falls onto anyone taking a crap on our toilet. Or a pee. Whatever. There is a hole above our crapper.) but also gives us more time to clean and paint the old place, gives us more time for roach abatement, and allows for a less stressed move. So it’s more good than bad.

I’ve been packing stuff from the living room and dining room, mostly books and vases and candle holders and the like. You know, stuff that can be boxed up and not missed for awhile. Although I do want to get at some of those books. I started in on the kitchen today, even knowing that we won’t be moving for awhile. We have one million glasses, many of them cute little juice glasses, and the extras are now all packed up. Shot glasses: packed up. Extra little bowls: packed up. The remnants of the nesting glass mixing bowls that survived Nesko’s glass mixing bowl rampage: packed up. Cookbooks: packed up. Several pans: packed up.

By “several” I mean “a very large box full, and then some more added in on the top of the box of cook books.” I went through cabinets and drawers and asked myself Very Hard Questions. “Am I likely to make a cake in the next month? No? In the box! How about a pie? Eight pies? No? In the box! A cheese cake? No! In the box!” One might question the wisdom of having enough pie pans to even make eight pies, but those people obviously hate Thanksgiving and Pie and The American Way Of Gluttonous Life. Also, several of those pie pans are glass and I make casseroles or cakes in them.

I should probably go through and pack up pantry items we aren’t going to use, like the five bags of semi sweet chocolate chips and the two bags of milk chocolate chips and the bag of red hots and the six cans of sweetened condensed milk and… well. You never know when those will come in handy. What if I want to make my fudgey chocolate one-pot cookies which calls for flour, butter, chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, walnuts, and vanilla? I could omit the walnuts, sure, but everything else is necessary and the cookies only take about ten minutes to mix up, and then they go in the oven. Fast! Easy! Tasty! Impossible to make without ingredients!

Yeah. I’m not going to make cookies in the next month.

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