[Wrote this last week, am just now getting around to posting.]
The GF and I are now the lessees of a pleasant (if insufficiently lit) 2BR apartment in the friendly confines of Cambridgeport. There are two of us, but since we're not yet estranged from one another, we're going balls out and devoting one bedroom to fulltime use as a library.
You quite possibly have no idea how exciting this is.
I'm slightly fascist about the treatment of my books; though I have beloved copies of Riddley Walker (Leo!) and If on a winter's night a traveller (Nicole!) floating currently out in the ether, I tend to like to know where my babies are, and in what condition. I'm one of those assholes who insists that you read his books without opening them too widely, to preserve their spines. This seems sensible to me; I prefer paperback books, and that's one key aspect of their preservation. Also: no dog-eared pages, thanks, and if efforts can be made to prevent cat piss and the like from getting into the things, we would much appreciate those efforts. We are gentle people but our wrath spares no one. (Oy vey, I lost 2/3 of the His Dark Materials trilogy to some friend-lent mishap, and an ex-girlfriend collaborated with a friend to destroy my House of Leaves, since replaced. The Pullman volumes are apparently in Arizona or somesuch bullshit.)
The GF is also lightly fascist about book condition: another of the ways in which we're either totally compatible or utterly, utterly doomed. But she owns many, many fewer volumes, primarily because she doesn't fetishize book ownership and -browsing the way I do, but partly because humanities grad students buy 6-10 books per class, while materials scientist types seem to go with the textbook-plus-reader model by and large. As grad school is a good time for a cult-stud (ha!) scholar to build a personal library while haunting the used stacks of a university bookstore (or our own fantastic Harvard Book Store, or Davis Square's McIntyre and Moore), I started with class reading lists and went bananas. A tiny bit of disposable income will do that to a bibliophile, I suppose, and half.com is a friend/bane to such people as well.
All of which is to say that our study is going to be overrun by books, and most of them will be mine, and I need a way of organizing them. There are worse problems to have. I have never organized my books before. The playscripts are together, and I like to keep series in one place, but that's it. Time to start life anew.
- Organize by subject area (with fiction as its own area, story collections, etc. - bookstore style in other words), then by author. The default. Boooring! But also sensible and useful. The trouble is, I want my Joyce criticism (the most sizeable single-author critical collection here) with Joyce's works, but I don't particularly want to follow that paradigm for all authors. Hobgoblin, small minds, I know, but I'd feel like I'd perpetrated something of an injustice if I didn't give all these authors their due.
- Organize by colour. A friend organized his CD's this way and they looked fantastic. The concern, obviously, is misremembering the colour of a given book. Misremembering? Yep. Shouldn't be that hard to learn the colours of the whole lot of them. When you lust after bound volumes the way I do, you get to know their cover designs pretty well. It's a thing. Which is to say, this is a lot easier to deal with than you might thing, and it's a hell of a conversation piece. I saw pictures of a bookstore organized this way, as some kind of art project or something. That's untenable; this is quirky. Know the difference.
- Organize alphabetically by author, across subject. This is bad. Who the hell wrote Joyce and Critical Theory? I have no idea. I just know I want it when I want it. Which, y'know, isn't all that often. But it's been known to happen. Often when I need to sleep. Anyway: no.
- Dewey decimal system, or Library of Congress numbering. Get a life you goddamn loser.
- Just put the things on the shelves and forget where things are, forcing yourself to implement fun search algorithms like fengShuiSearch(title, roomRegion*) and bruteForceSearch(title, patienceRemaining, timeTilNextAppointment). Upside: this is how unexpected encounters with beloved texts happen. Downside: they happen every goddamn time you try to do anything. Bibliopriapism, homeboys, and we know that's a mixed bag. On the other hand it's worked for a couple of decades; why change horses in midstream?
[Geek apologia: I think that's C-style pointer syntax up in there. I don't know. Never really learned C, except for a couple of days freshman year when I decided it would be sexy to pick some up and it took just that long to realize that 'sexy' isn't a work in a C programmer's vocabulary, at least not in the sense normal people use it. i.e. I probably screwed it up for the sake of a joke, i.e. point to the part of the room you think it's in, see what's at that address, blah blah. Maybe an ampersand? Is that Perl subroutines? I dunno. As Pumbaa says, you gotta put your behind in the past. Or something.]
Right now I'm leaning toward the default, which is more work than the last thing but far less than the so-called 'colour' scheme (ha! Real festival of comedy here!). I wrote this post intending to ask you for guidance, Reader(s), but now I think I'll just feel it out. In the moment, real free improv and whatnot. The New Thing at Cambridgeport. (And if anyone knows the Trane album referred to in that last sentence fragment there, I've not heard it, and wonder: Awesome? Bollocks? Some word starting with 'C'? Now here we are with the reaching-out, hidden inside parentheses. It's tough, life is.)