I understand why the book with the octopus pattern stays. There is a vivid connection to times past. I like these connections.
However, there’s a risk that every book will have a vivid connection and nothing will leave. Yet, that would imply I’d never purchased a book in error, and they are there, staring back at me in condemnation. Yes, there is a vivid connection but to something I’d rather not remember; to a mistake.
Working out how to sort through my books requires a bit of thought. I write three words on the butcher’s paper – Useful Versus Symbolic.
I push the idea a bit further … Pragmatically Useful versus Symbolically Useful.
How can something be symbolically useful? In the eyes of many people, that is just sentimentality in action. Its an expensive hobby. Each book takes up space. I pay for that space on a weekly basis.
I think there’s a different way to look at it. To be symbolic, the item is intrinsically connected to an idea. If it’s symbolic in my eyes, it is meaningful to me. How do I trash the symbol without also trashing something that I believe is important?
A very simple and straightforward question emerges as the rule for sorting my books …
“Was I wrong about this book?”
If the answer is no, then it stays. If yes, it’s in the pile to be donated to Lifeline’s charity book fair.
I’m not trashing the symbol. The book just didn’t live up to it.
How did it work out?
All the books I bought for university stayed. It was an important, significant, intense, unforgettable and life-changing time. I went hungry to buy some of these. Though, embarrassingly, some of them haven’t been thoroughly read. The sight of them makes me feel clever-er than I actually am.
All the art and craft books stayed. It’s an identity thing.
Any book that was a “first of” stayed. Intersections are worth remembering, particularly where decisions were made and options opened up. My first database manual, “Understanding dBase IV 1.1” goes nowhere. It was the early nineties, I’d been working as a data entry operator and decided to take some computer classes. I sat up at night reading in wonderment … “that’s why that does that!” I’d heard about reading a book all night because it couldn’t be put down. My “page turner” turned out to be a computer textbook.
And finally, children’s books stayed but not because children will be reading them. I will be reading them. A well-illustrated children’s book is always a delight. So much so that I can’t bear to part with some. Many years ago, my poor little niece visited her silly old aunt. She was 5 or 6 or something like that. She like Harold and his Purple Pencil. She asked if she could have it. I baulked. I had two but couldn’t part with them and couldn’t separate them.
(Thanks, Hans Christian Anderson and your fairy tale about the toy tin solider and the paper ballerina – it was so wrenching when the solider was lost out the window and he endured all those trials only to be reunited with the ballerina in a brutal and savage way, with both then being consumed in the fireplace … it’s no wonder throwing things out is so difficult).
I found an algebra workbook! When did I buy an algebra workbook? I’m glad I bought an algebra workbook. I’m having a ball re-learning algebra.
In the end, I managed to pass on some non-working books to the local charity sale in the hope that someone else might create in them some worth.
Driving back, there was a strange sensation, quite unexpected, even positive.
I felt crisp.