Some books take on a new life and are no longer just books. They become Symbolic Representation.
This means that a strategy of ‘One Book In, One Book Out’ is not possible in my home, because trashing a symbolic book is akin to trashing whatever it now represents. Some books are just too special.
Although, a neat piece of mental gymnastics helped during my last clear out. I would ask: Is this book a worthwhile representation of this symbol? If the answer was ‘Not really’, it was much easier to pass the book on.
Books that are not symbolic in any way, no worries; very happy to share a book I’ve enjoyed.
It’s time for another clear out. I’ve kept the number of bookshelves in this house to a small sliver in the hallway, which fills up quickly.
The plan is to tackle only those that I’ve acquired over the last six years. I’m making the effort now because I’ve located the local LifeLine centre that takes book donations, but it won’t be a big clear out as I’ve already been proactively sharing. Most of my books from Canberra – 99% of my books from Canberra – are still in storage.
I wonder if I will confront any symbolic books this time? Or has life been more run of the mill lately?
Moving back to the home town gave Mum the opportunity – and she took it very quickly – to unload some books from my teenage years.
I’d joined a history book club during high school. History was my favourite subject, some of the other students were also members, and there was something exciting about the arrival of new books in the post. These were not online orders. In those days, you got a brochure in the mail detailing this month’s offerings, and you then purchased some stamps to post back your order. Elizabeth I, Victoria and Albert, Henry VIII. Not sure I want to keep them, but they do feel very symbolic, in part because the other purchases were donated when I moved from Tamworth to Canberra back in the 1980s.
(It was that particular excessive clear out that led to my future reluctance. During that move, I’d also donated my Time-Life photography library!! Many years later, I saw a similar set at a second-hand fete but didn’t have the funds to purchase or the capacity to get all of the volumes home. I still feel like a piece of me is missing.)
There’s the Time-Life Library of Art that Mum bought for me when she was working at a local charity shop. Nineteen volumes. I wonder if there was once twenty? Flicking today through Van Gough, noting the colours, I’ve decided I must make a weekend project of them. Not sure what or how yet, but it’s an idea.
The Reader’s Digest Do-It-Yourself Manual is another escapee from my childhood. 1965, to be precise. The massive volume was the YouTube of its day, full of how to do all manner of things – woodworking, garden landscaping, repairs and maintenance. This book fascinated me and still does. In these pages, my as-yet unfulfilled desire to build was born.
All these will remain on the shelves, saved by an attachment to a symbolic memory. One box has been filled and the next has a few spaces left. Perhaps I will have to visit the storage shed, but I fear that it will be too hard to select a handful of books and dislocate them from their buddies.
I can see that most of my recent purchases aren’t screaming at me to stay. But, while I type, I’ve dashed back to the boxes to retrieve On the Road and War of The Worlds, only to find both were still on the shelf. Looking down at the contents, I’m wondering if Anne Summers and Geoffrey Robertson’s memoirs should also stay. I retrieve them, but leave President Obama’s oversized volume as I just wasn’t interested enough in the mechanics of American politics to progress very far past Chapter 1.
The remainder of box two has been relocated to box one. All done. Lid on.
Looks like I’m the only super organised one who thinks about the person who will handle them next!