Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The fight against entropy


{Photos by rocketlass}

Alpha by author.
Library of Congress.
Dewey, the mostly discarded and disused.
Alpha by title.
By subject, as defined by your whims.

Short to tall.
Short to long.
Cheap to expensive.



Certain time-based schema
As my friend Marc files his books, by date of acquisition. In other words, rather than always working to squeeze newly acquired books into the space one has previously allotted--a perpetually failing attempt, however innocent, to pretend that one has not fallen all that much farther behind--one simply accepts that the road laid out by books is neverending, and one's progress on it will always be, at best, relative. Therefore: now; then.


Numerically, based on the first number mentioned in the text. The second number, and so forth, to break ties.
Biblically, based on the first biblical name mentioned and its position in the canonical Bible. As usual, the Apocrypha to break ties.



By spine color, in rainbow order.
By spine color, in reverse rainbow order.

Read; unread.
Read; unread; never to be read.
Given; purchased; borrowed; stolen.
Written by friends; written by enemies; written by those to whom one is indifferent.



Certain time-based schema
On every birthday, you pare your library to one book for every year you've lived. The remainder you give to the library. The list of books that seem worth retaining will, of course, change dramatically over the years; certain books will demand recall. It's not, however, a sin for the person who donated a book to steal it back, so long as another book will soon be donated to take its place. Thus: books kept; books donated. Repeat.


The scholar divides his books into known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns. The scholar is Donald Rumsfeld, and his library is a prison cell in which he is awaiting sentencing for war crimes. He has not seen another human for days.

Satisfying; disappointing.
Repudiated first novels; unfinished works posthumously published; all the rest of a life's work.
Wodehouse; not Wodehouse.



Certain time-based schema
Decades ago, a lover gave you a topless photo of herself, taken by a kind, though surely titillated, stranger as she sunned herself on a beach in southern France. She gave it to you when she left the country, to which she's never returned. One hazy night, you tucked it into a book; in the morning, you knew not which book. Therefore: books you owned as of that night; those you acquired later. The former are never lent without a surreptitious flip through the pages, which quickens the pulse.


Well books; unhealthy books.
By mood, and therefore by color.
Proust; books about Proust; not Proust.



Certain time-based schema
Your home burned, a spectacular conflagration that you were lucky to escape. The only book to survive, which a weary fireman handed to you, still sooty and warm to the touch, was an old edition, inherited from your grandfather, of J. M. Doughty's Travels in Arabia Deserta. You hire an old booksmith to hollow the book, and into it you pour the ashes of your library. Therefore: before the fire; after the fire.


Histories, in order from Herodotus; lies.
Ends; means.
Borges; not Borges. As all books are in some sense Borges, this schema is ultimately alpha by title.

Certain time-based schema
Decades ago, a lover gave you a smudged charcoal drawing of herself, nude, reclining on a divan. It had been drawn by her previous paramour at a time of panting happiness; her giving it to you was a brazen act of betrayal. Though you had no way to know at the time, that betrayal was the first of many, until finally it was unclear who was betraying whom, or for whom. One hazy night, you tucked it into a book; in the morning, you knew not which book. Therefore: books you owned as of that night; those you acquired later. The former are placed in a wooden frame, then encased in concrete. They will not be read.




Numerically, by number of pages.
Numerically, by number of words.
Numerically, by the numbers painted on the books' spines by your blind niece.
A Dance to the Music of Time; the less-coordinated.

Certain time-based schema
Your home burned, a spectacular conflagration that you were lucky to escape. No books survived. The ashes of your library you scatter on your lawn on a spring morning, where they fertilize a profusion of wildflowers. All books you acquire after the fire you immediately place in a hermetically sealed container that you sink to the bottom your moat--water being the only proof, in our chaotic world, against the return of fire. Therefore: before the fire; after the fire.




By last word, arranged so as to tell a coherent--and unexpectedly troubling--story.

The first book you read as a child; the last book you'll read as an old man; the multitude you've forgotten jumbled between; the countless books you'll never have time for strewn at your feet.

3 comments:

  1. Anonymous12:02 AM

    If ever I find myself with access with access to Levi's library, I resolve to rifle through his books searching for stashed porn.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm almost through with "Everything is Miscellaneous" which you might find interesting if you're on an organizational tear.

    I'll be happy to loan it...

    ReplyDelete
  3. The Librarian1:46 AM

    The library does not want you to donate your discards, which are difficult for us to catalog and process and are therefore very likely to be sold for a pittance. No good intentions can justify the reclamation (theft) of the handful of titles we deemed to have been worth cataloging and processing - please wait until we discard them. All of your other schema appear to be sound.

    ReplyDelete