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Wild Work, in Inner and Outer Space

Every time we arrange or rearrange books on a shelf, we enjoy in crude form one of the basic pleasures of literary criticism.

English Romanticism and the French Tradition, by Margery Sabin

…Two weeks ago, on the History Hoydens blog, I mused about the pleasures of reshelving my books in a freshly painted study, and posted the photograph to the right — which, however, was rather a flattering view of the state of affairs, since the camera’s eye went to all that lovely natural light coming through the window, mindlessly if obligingly blacking out the unruly spectacle of all the books still piled and strewn about the floor.

Most of them are shelved now. But far too many of what I’m fondly describing as “shelved” are merely jumbled into the bookshelf at my right, in a provisional mishmash of… hmm…

  • books I might want to read really really soon
  • books I love too much not to have close by
  • books I think I’d love if I ever opened them
  • books I didn’t give a fair shake to first time around
  • books that might break my heart by not being what I thought they’d be

And if that adds up to a picture of me indulging my romance writer’s sensibility while taking pleasure in my own crude version of literary criticism — well then, I’ve adequately described the preliminaries, to what, in the phrasing of Dracula‘s Dr. Van Helsing, is the work, wild work remaining to be done.

Which is to read about ten pages of each (except the ones I already love!) to figure out where to shelve them in the house, to fit into Michael’s massive reorganization of all the bookshelves everywhere else in our house.

We’ve already donated boxes of what we don’t want any more — to local indie new-and-used booksellers¬† (Modern Times and our neighborhood Bird and Beckett); to libraries (San Francisco Public and the collection at the Center for Sex and Culture); to the Goodwill Store.

Magically, what’s left on our shelves looks fresh, appealing, seductive. (Michael grins. “Old bookseller’s trick.” No wonder my first romance hero and heroine met in a bookstore.)

Enough. Back to work. Like that Sabin book on French and English romanticism, for example…

…but I can certainly be distracted by narratives of your adventures with your books and bookshelves…

What’s the book and bookshelf situation over at your house?


  1. *waving* Hi, Pam!

    Well, lemme see… In the past month I finished two bookcases for my room, which means that the twenty four linear feet of books in my TBR mountain range have a home–unfortunately, it’s an extremely crowded and overflowing home at present. I foresee building a couple more bookcases in my very near future…

    (and let’s not talk about the crowded bookcases and boxes inside the under the stairs closet, please–at least until the visible books are in some semblance of order…)

  2. Seeing as I live in a rather small NYC apartment, my romance novel collection currently live under the bed! I recently wrote a blog post about this very same issue at my site

  3. Waving to azteclady — will let you know when we get the shelf thing under control…

    And yet, what would it mean to go beyond paper? E-texts? Would it be better? I can’t imagine a house without bookshelves — which have their history too: my bookseller/book historian husband Michael once reviewed a book on that very topic, The Book on the Bookshelf, by Henry Petroski.

    And Sarah, thanks for the intro to you and your lovely site. Looking forward to hearing a lot more about you and your rakish heroes in the future!

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