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Wednesday, 1 March 2017

CLEARING SHELVES: A REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE.

Enter the swirl. Here's the whirlpool. This is how it works...
   I buy books and stack them on shelves. Then I clear shelves. I don't take the books off those shelves.
   No.
   I take them off the shelves, read the books, and return them to those shelves.
   But.
   I am an author. So. I don't keep books on shelves in alphabetical order. Why the fuck would I do that? Books go where they fit. That's the bloody rule.


*

A shelf is cleared when all the books on that shelf are read.
   Enter the swirl. A new book arrives. It won't fit anywhere. I have to remove an old book that can fit anywhere, and put the new book in the vacated space where it'll bloody well squeeze in.
   And this means...
   A shelf, cleared, is suddenly clear no longer. It has a new unread book on the board.


*

Well. Damn.
   I'm reading a book a week. But I am not clearing shelves. New books saw to that problem, down the years. Now I am staring at 22 shelves of hardbacks, and...
   After much reshuffling, reorganisation, the ditching of a cabinet, the transfer of new tomes to the top of three bookcases...
   There are 22 shelves, and one shelf is cleared. Look at that sturdy board. There are 26 books on that cleared shelf, and nothing else will ever fit on it. Nothing. There's no way to reshuffle. Not on that one.
   Now I am staring at the nearest shelf. By coincidence, it contains 26 books. And I've read 25 of those. Closing in on that one last title. I should have it done by the weekend. And the weekend is long-gone by the time this post goes out.



   I turn to the shelf ahead. It houses 23 books, and I've tackled 21 of those.
   Surely, you say...


*

To clear shelves quickly, all I need do is read that one book here, two volumes there, and those three tomes yonder.
   Ah, bless your heart.
   I read what I feel like reading, of course.



   One book down, with that weekend far behind me, means one more shelf is done.
   What did I do next? Did I take the obvious path, and turn to the shelf with two unread books on it? Then the shelf with four unread books on it?
   The obvious path is a thorny one, and there is great resistance on it. Yes, to clear shelves I should read these two books next. Followed by those four.
   But I go where I please, down there in the stacks. That's the whole point.
   My purchasing habits changed. I bought in a stack of dozens of books in a sale and munched through them. Only to buy another huge stack of books in a second sale.
   And I never recovered from that. My rule of reading the book that comes into the house when it comes into the house...that rule warped and shattered under the deluge of paper.
   Well, purchasing habits changed. No more calamitous sales like that. This means I am making progress, one tome at a time. It's nice to clear shelves. But it is far better to read books in no particular order. Or in the illusion of order.
   No more bookshelves? And no more books? No more massive sales - cursed blessings, all.
   My hardback reading deficit hovers around 150 - yes, three years at a book a week. I knock it down in one year, and then it sneaks back up on me the next. Paperback books intervene, taking up time, deflecting the weekly consumption of the hardbacks.
   But I am getting there, this time.
   There's also the small matter of finishing hardbacks in series. But that is a small matter. I polished off one trilogy in January. Clearing shelves isn't about clearing shelves. It's about reading books. The stacks, seen from a distance, don't create a path.
   It's a mosaic.
   Also, quite hard to see at a distance. Walls get in the way. That's a technical thing.









   

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