Monday, December 30, 2013
I was brought up in a library. My grandmother was a librarian, my mother was a librarian (although not until my youngest brother was old enough be home alone, and I was in college by then) and my first job was working in a small-town library. I shelved books, dusted shelves and tables, vacuumed, buffed and waxed the floor, and my last summer before college I ran the place for several weeks while the regular librarian was on vacation. I think I’ve told my library stories already, but I may have omitted the part about playing strip poker way back in the stacks with a friend who thought he was Brett Maverick and let me ride his horse in exchange for doing his English homework.
To get to the point, my family didn’t need to buy a whole lot of books because we had access to them already. Most of the books we did buy were “seconds” from the major printing and bookbinding factory where my father worked, and where my first summer job during college was taking coverless books from the machines where the “signatures” were sewn together, separating them and tying off threads as necessary, and putting them on a conveyer belt on their way to be bound.
All this is an attempt at an excuse for the fact that I don’t have many books on my shelves. Well, I do, but more as a matter of storage than accessibility, and they’re mostly fantasy and science fiction accumulated for and by my now-grown sons (not that I haven’t read most of them myself, often out loud to the family.)
The books I do keep nearby are not on shelves. If the saying that you can tell all you need to know abut someone by their books is true, what you can tell about me is that I’m a terrible housekeeper. My books are either in boxes or in stacks on any available flat surface. The erotic books that I’ve edited, and/or contributed to, are mostly in boxes in my closet, trying to stave off the day when my nearly-eight-year-old granddaughter gets too inquisitive. I figure by the time she’s twelve or so I won’t bother to conceal them.
The boxed books that I keep accessible because I may want to read them are mostly on subjects that I might want to write about. I just dug out one called “Witchcraft and Folklore of Dartmoor,” picked up cheap at some fundraising booksale or other, because I’m working on a story set on Dartmoor for an anthology named Daughters of Frankenstein. I have biographies and books on various periods of history; I’ve just been reading about the Mongols of the Golden Horde for a story I should be working on right this minute. And I just noticed one I’d forgotten about, Yoshiwara: Geishas, Courtesans, and Pleasure Quarters of Old Tokyo; I can only hope to some day have cause to use that as background for a story.
I do have treasured books passed down through the family; venerable copies of Louisa May Alcott’s books (she lived and wrote not far from where I grew up,) Alice in Wonderland, Sherlock Holmes, Shakespeare, Grapes of Wrath, Robert Frost, John Donne, and somewhere boxed away are Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Fanny Hill, The Pearl, and several books by Colette, all accumulated during my college days. There's also a goodly stack of books by friends on my dresser, a few that I’ve reviewed, altogether too many that I haven’t reviewed yet, although these days most such books are on my computer rather than in stacks.
I still depend on public libraries for much of my reading and research, and now I have access to two major college-town libraries and, through them, every library in the state. I’m still conditioned to regard all library shelves as my own, and these days I don’t have to be the one who dusts them.