Monday, February 17, 2020
Living alone without a job, I have few distractions from my emotional state. States, actually. I realize that most of the time, I am good. I wake in the night thinking, "I love my life." Later, culling books, deciding what to keep and what to discard, something more complex emerges. Then, eating lunch alone in a bar, there is a precipitous drop. Confusion and paralysis become part of the late afternoon realizing how little was accomplished that day, then a numbness at dinner with my mother and cousin. Late, with a whiskey, there is the inexplicable weeping over a sappy scene in an overproduced popular movie. Then blankness and bed.
Each morning begins with a promise that the day eventually erodes. Luckily, I have few moral regrets with which to contend.
But there are many practical ones.
So. . . yea. Yesterday I decided to do something/anything practical and useful. The list of things needing to be done is growing. It has, in truth, becoming overwhelming, piling up like an Empire State Building, getting too large to even think of tackling. It is beginning to effect my emotional wellbeing.
Yesterday, with weak determination, I decided to tackle the whole book fiasco. I opened a tub of books I brought home from the factory, then turned my attention to my shelves. There was no place to put the books in the tub. Decisions would have to be made. I wish it could be done in the passive voice, but it couldn't. I had to make editorial decisions. What to keep. What to pitch.
And so, shelf by shelf, starting with the "A"s. Jesus, I have a lot of books by Edward Abbey. How'd I get so many? Well. . . it was the '70s. Then the '80s.
I kept them all.
Achube. Hmm. Gone. Brautigan. Look at all of those. You know, I read them, but I was never a fan. I will never read one of those again. But man, they look good on the bookshelf. I mean, c'mon. Fuck. Something has to go.
Two full shelves of Bukowski. Really? Sure. I've been buying him since '74. I have ridiculous small press, smaller press, almost mimeographed things.
Keep them all.
But what, then?
Crumley. Holy shit. I must have bought everything he ever published. Why? Oh, sure, he was a friend of the Clark Press crowd, a Montana writer, Harrison, McGuane, and the Gerber fortune. The Clark City Press book is nice looking. But fuck.
Gone. All of them.
I got through about half the bookshelves. When I had finished, I was sneezing and blowing my nose with vengeance, eyes red and itchy.
And it didn't look as if I had made much headway.
I discarded piles of books that I had never read and would never read, many touted by the N.Y. Times as one of the best of the year. I'll bet they would have been fun at the time, but they surely haven't held up. They were not meant to last.
Still, it is heartbreaking to tear apart your youthful treasure chest, the fortunes of your years. I must have spent all my money on books, what little I had, anyway. It made me smarter and hipper than thou, I thought. I valued them the way the young republicans valued their stock portfolios.
I look around wondering who was right.
I didn't touch Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, or any of the other gold standards, of course. Not even a little.
That's a lot of male authors, right? I thought about going back and editing in the female authors from my shelves into the previous paragraphs just to make me historically acceptable, but I decided not to be one of those people. I do have female authors. Lots of them.
But not as many. I read a lot of "tender hearted men, lonesome, sad, and blue" books.
And a lot of travel books from the past. Adventure tales, of a sort. Men braving the unknown. I was looking for guidebooks, I guess. I acted out most of what I read, though I never shot an animal. But the rest of it. You know--Burton and Speke, searching for the source of the Nile kind of stuff. Victorian bravery, "The Man Who Would Be King" style. Then the Lost Generation debilitated by war, living their stoic existential existences. Then those fucked up Beats.
There are lots of books of Japanese and Chinese poetry. And Yeats and Williams and Frost. And of course Stevens and Elliot.
I can throw away the Pound.
But I haven't gotten to any of that yet.
My living room floor is littered with piles of books about which I am still undecided. I have made more of a mess than I have solved. I feel as if I have put on the wizard's hat in "Fantasia" and everything keeps multiplying.
More shelves today. More blowing my nose and sneezing.
Oh. . . I forgot to mention one of the pleasures of going through old books. I used everything and anything for a bookmark, and so opening the books, I find forgotten pleasures, old love notes, invitations, business cards, photographs. . . . There is a secret history hidden between the printed pages. Some of it is funny. Some of it is heartbreaking. There will be more of that today.
And little else, really. Dawn is cloudy and drizzling. More dismantling, more organizing, and little else to distract me.
Posted by cafe selavy at 7:18 AM