Ambivalent joy of a groaning bookshelf

Our books, the ones we want to keep for now, are making a transition from Sparty Lea to New Galloway

They’re not sorted yet, but three and a half boxes later, the new bookshelf is reaching a groaning capacity now, and there’s still another four or five long shelves in the big house. To say nothing of the boxes I’ve hidden in the loft! It’s hard to downsize the accumulated reading of a lifetime.

On the other hand, it’s a brand new experience to see one’s own oeuvre mixed in with others. Never mind that my effort is still undergoing extensive revision, especially the most recent novel. Never mind as well that my newer work-in-progress, the historical fiction Keep Me in Your Heart, languishes while I revise and revise again my science fiction attempt. I’m still deep in the thrall of the ‘joy’ of editing, re-configuring, chopping and channeling and fixing and finessing. I imagine that what’s true for one normal-sized novel is also true for a bookshelf of assorted volumes. We have to realise that sometimes there simply isn’t space enough to accommodate everything we wish to say, or to store accessibly. Downsizing has to exert quite an effect on clutter, else it isn’t really downsizing.

But as in writing, so many times less is more. I’m ambivalent, however, about the divestment; I want to keep everything, but I also want to get on with life, and the accumulation seems to be holding us back.

The future is frightening, sometimes, I have to admit it. How to let go of beloved companions, which few most precious ones to hold on to. Where is life taking us, as we try to stay comfortable in encroaching old age? If I can convince myself that the joy is really there, if I only look, then perhaps I can help us survive the mini-traumas of a physical transition, a move as real as it is also metaphorical, as we work together.

But sometimes the tristesse overwhelms. The joy is hard to find. The exception, the one that seems to prove the rule, is that the new joys do seem to take the place of the old ones. The old ones have had their time, and if we can keep hold of them in some minimalist way, while gladly embarking into new joys, we’ll be laughing together.

So people populate their memories with photographs, diaries, memoirs and letters. Some folks even write daily blogs. It all feels like an effort to have and to hold, but also to say, in a simple quiet way, goodbye. Goodbye . . . and hello!

There’s a kind of peaceful joy in resolving these things, I hope.

One response to “Ambivalent joy of a groaning bookshelf”

  1. I can never bear to throw books out or recycle


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