At the moment there’s scarcely room here to sit, leave alone exercise free movement of my elbows. And while this is only a slight exaggeration, I’d best make no sudden moves, or I might topple the tall stacks of books everywhere around me, as the room is in a state of turmoil brought on by my decision to add two more tall bookcases, despite the fact that there’s no obvious place or space for them, and that there are enough books piled around to fill double that number. To put it another way, I’ve not only written myself into a corner, I’ve read myself into a corner. Somewhere, though, there is a window. I can sense its faint light. And I faint at the sight and sound of its scent.
Moving Books Around
I derive a great deal of satisfaction from moving books around. Since I have so many, and since most of them are in this room, it takes a bit of doing not only to fit them all and to accommodate new arrivals, but to arrange them in a harmonious, meaningful way. In effect, each book must be free to sing from its place on the shelf, while bidding its neighbors to join in. Bindings, colors, sizes, page edges — all must be taken into account. Wherever one is in the room, whichever way he is facing, there must be a feast for the eyes and an ultimate balance. The books must be presented in such a way that they demand to be picked up, turned over, held, and examined. Those that are in stacks must be accessible. Those that are gifts must always be at hand. Those that are so old that they can only be touched infrequently, must not be made to feel they have fallen from favor; on the contrary, they must be honored like the venerable grandparents and great-grandparents that they are. There is somewhere in the neighborhood of two thousand five hundred books in this room. There is also my mother’s desk, where this is being written, and upon which reside a full set of Lord Byron, a full set of Montaigne, a set of Daudet, a set of John Lothrop Motley, and other miscellaneous volumes. Paintings, photographs, drawings, gifts, family heirlooms of humble origin. Three comfortable chairs: the red rocker that once belonged to my mother’s father; the medium-sized leather recliner (my reading chair) that my mother used to sit in; and a smaller rocker that used to belong to my father’s parents. The room itself is not that big. I would measure it right now, but there are too many obstacles. I think it is meant to be a den or sitting room. It has a large window that faces the street. But the room really continues into the front yard, because I have encouraged the plant life out there to become a kind of enclosure that gives privacy and yet affords glimpses of the street. I have written many a poem about the goings on out there — the bird life, the grass, the lilac, the delicate maples. If I could keep books out there too, I probably would. But only a few. I would hate to over do.
Recently Banned Literature, November 18, 2017