ex libris


The culling of books has begun.

The trouble with being a dabbler is that I keep hoping to turn back to things to study them (or remember them) properly one day. So, given the task of choosing which of my State-side books to keep, I have a riduculous pile of things that includes books on several languages I can’t speak, costumes I will never make again, equations that eluded me at the best of times, horses that barely exist in Britain, as well as the more sensible novels, poems, books of theology and childhood favorites. Oh, and a few on cognitive development and curriculum planning since they do come in handy.

Sheer and utter madness.

Some people have photo albums. I have a library.

30 thoughts on “ex libris”

  1. Kimberly STOP! I must implore you as a fellow collector of books – be cautious, very cautious before you let any go.

    OK, I feel better now I have managed to get that off my chest.

    All you really need is another blank wall and some more built in shelves. The languages you can’t speak YET; at some point one of those equations is bound to come up and require attention; and who knows what sort of costumes you will be called on to prepare for the august Episcopal Church. However, curriculum review you can get on-line! (You can tell I work in an Educational genre……).

    Having said all of this, I do love a good cull of books because it provides me with shelf space for more. My latest include a couple on the construction of memory; gender and sexuality in post modernity; women’s madness (historical perspective) and a rather meaty tome which is a translation of Bede’s Commentary on Genesis….To get these I had to be a bit ruthless with a few novels that I’ll never read again.

    Hope you’re resting in between the sorting, nostalgizing (is that a word? I suspect not); and taking photos of large feats of engineering.

  2. Vicky, point taken about the extra shelves, but sometimes the combined pressures of storage and shipping make culling a sad necessity. In repeating this scene many times over the past few years, I’ve come to the point where I realize that if I’m not going to pay to ship the book across the pond, there’s not a huge point in letting it moulder in my parents’ basement. That said, I would still echo your note of caution – I’ve had a few ruthless culls that I’ve regretted (those couple theology books I never thought I’d use again after undergrad . . . ).

  3. Elizabeth, I sympathize. I always end up culling clothes to get more books in the suitcase…what an admission.

    Here’s another. For years I felt a real pang of pain about a book that I had sold with some others (to raise money for other books). I consistently wondered whether I should purchase it again once I could afford to do so. Patience, however, worked and when I moved in with my partner it turned out that they had a copy…so all was balance in the world again. But, apart from stroking the cover tenderly each time I reshelve by reordering the books (happens whenever I’m a bit stressed), I have not once opened it to read it. Now what is that all about, I ask you?

  4. I am in the interesting situation of having (a) my own eminently cullable (?) library and a loft so full of my family’s uncollected belongings – books, first editions of newpapers, cuttings – that I sometimes lie awake looking at the bedrom ceiling in the expectation that it will crumble and a torrent of mildewed paper will cascade all over me. The mantra chez nous is “Must clear the loft” – but that’s as far as it gets. The weans’ll probably end up doing it when I’m pushing up the daisies …

  5. Help!
    I can’t get anything else in the attic, the bookcases are full and there are now 3 stacks beside the bed.

    Promise I have really, really, tried to be ruthless, but the people, the thoughts, the ideas, the inspiration, the memories contained in those covers overwhelm my need for space!

    They are an extension of me, all the stuff I can’t pack into my memory cells, that I have to recall by seeing, touching, opening and occasionally reading.

    Kimberly , you have my deepest sympathy in your dilema, I’m just your average mum and I find the task nigh on impossible.

    Well perhaps today is the day for a cull of some sorts, though I suspect it will morph into sitting on the floor surrounded by old friends ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Ok this isn’t really for meant for a posted comment BUT unless I ask this question it will just be another on my list to ask you. Sweet? Various people have mentioned it, Google threw up Henry founder of modern phonetics. Congratulate me on daring to air my ignorance on the net. Is this another book I need?! Chris and Sharon I’m with you on the bookcase/loft/cellar/shed full. Ours are being damaged as we speak but all those words!!!

    Also Eamonn on his suggestions re blogs that inspire. Fractals? I know this and its that pesky Queen of Sciences thing again isn’t it!

  7. Sweet (never knew his/her?? first name!) produced an Anglo-Saxon Primer which was standard fare in Glasgow University English Department for ever. Don’t know why we had multiple copies, though!

  8. My gut reaction to your post is “Noooooo, don’t do it!” Surely the SEC has some sort of building faculty for constructing extensions to rectories for rector’s libraries. If not, they should have.

    If I’ve bought a book and like it, it is never ever ever being culled. I’m even agonising over one book which I hated and which I won’t ever read again – because it’s a classic, and I feel that I ought to like it, so maybe I will one day try it again. The thought of culling a much larger collection is just too much, my head’s exploding just at the thought.

  9. How long have you been over here in the UK? And you’re only just now having to embark on this painful task? I’d only been here for two years when my parents forced me to cull my books. I thought this a rather cruel and unfair order coming from an English professor who has two offices (home and work) and a home library in which to keep his books. Looking back, I suppose he was thinking of all the extra shelf space that he could have for his books once mine were away. I personally believed his collection looked more inclusive and interesting with my books mixed in. Now it’s back to consisting mostly of the works of medieval male poets.

    You have nothing but the greatest sympathy from me.

  10. My parents have been kind. My books have been allowed to stay in my bedroom and other things in the basement. But now that they are thinking of moving, it is time.

    Kate, I cannot imagine having my books mixed in with others. The very thought made me flinch.

    Jackie, part of the problem is that I seem to be running the rescue center for the SEC’s traumatized books. I give room to a large part of a friend’s collection because she was planning to give them up and I wanted her to keep her options open, and saved rather a lot of someone else’s theological books (and Agatha Cristie’s) too.

    Graham, you most definitely don’t have to read Sweet. I’m not sure if I’ve understood you on the fractals comment. Are you offering to write a blog on fractals, or are you referring to someone else’s post ( Fragments and Fractals back in December, for example)?

  11. My non-book reading parents were completely bemused on taking in my goods and chattels prior to my joining community… one box of kitchen equipment, one box of linen/clothes, one small box of cassettes, one box of printed music and ten boxes of books.

    I never told them I’d had the most horrendous day culling it down to ten boxes!

  12. On the other hand, if you never cull the books, there will be less used books available in the world and that would not be a good thing. As a frequent purchaser of used books, I remain ever grateful for other people’s culls.

  13. Well said, Elizabeth.

    Kimberly, just to clarify – my parents moved house when I was overseas. Twice. I had no control over how my books were packed or where in the new house(s) they were put since ‘my’ room no longer existed. Coming home to see them mixed in with other lesser books made me feel as though someone had touched my daemon (I’m assuming you’ve read His Dark Materials). Boundaries had been crossed and words were exchanged, I can assure you.

  14. A fascinating idea. There are very few books I would regard as my daemon. Off to consider.

    (I try very hard, when I write, to send the text into the world as a child, not a daemon. I try to set it free to find its own life, praying it remains true to the values nearest to my heart. Those of you with children will be only too aware of the tension this creates.)

  15. Since writing that comment, I have been pondering the implications and limitations of such an analogy, and which books might qualify (because it would have to be more than a single book). A far more entertaining activity than accounting.

    Rosemary, would you consider any of your own writing to be your daemon? Would you be pleased or upset if someone claimed it to be theirs? An interesting twist on the idea of authorial intent.

  16. I wonder if Rosemary has read Dark Materials. Anyone who hasn’t might misunderstand this part of the thread.

    The daemon is a sort of externalized soul, though it is more complicated than that.

  17. If someone were to metaphorically give me a library-lobectomy I should surely whither.

    Uh, Kimberly – I don’t suppose you could give those of us with insatiable curiosity about the democratic nominations a sense of how the community you’re in is thinking?

  18. The community I’m in meaning ‘my parents’??

    Today there is much debate about whether ‘Hilary’ (why didn’t she run as Clinton?) will admit defeat in her televised speech tonight, or whether she will press on. There are those who hope Obama will choose her as VP. There are those who are so huffy about the primaries that they are threatening to vote for McCain if Obama wins the Primary.

    I have always preferred Obama, and think that what he lacks in experience has has the intelligence to learn quickly. But I’ve also thought that either of the democratic candidates would be fine, and whatever happened we would have a democratic president next. I am now not so sure.

    People are nervous: gas prices are 2 – 3 times what I have ever known them to be; food prices are evidently higher. Property prices are down. The dollar is weak. Republicans always have the advantage in a climate of fear.

    Add to that that Obama has been repeatedly criticized for his lack of leadership experience (by Clinton, of course), and there might be a lot of swing voters and a lot of Hilary-women who turn to McCain.

    Very scary indeed.

  19. A friend in Texas reports ever growing tendency to do what I fear my country too does in extremis: ‘It is all the fault of immigrants, who are all criminals, scroungers and illegal…’ She started supporting Hillary, but decided early on that she preferred Obama and switched.

    Yes, I have read His Dark Materials, but I must admit the daemon was the only bit I loved. I once wrote a chapter of a longer work, still unfinished, about Gomer, and I would allow that to be a daemon. I would be intensely delighted is any of my work went to make up somebody else’s daemon – it is what I write in hope of. Certainly the whole OT is a book-daemon for me, but I suspect that like Desert Island Disks we must exclude the Bible and Shakespeare. Um, the poems of John Donne, and George Herbert and G M Hopkins, for a start.

  20. Kimberly, thank you for the update ๐Ÿ™‚
    Sorry about the clumsy opening sentence – I was trying to get parents, friends and neighbours in. Last time there was a US election I was in Indianapolis and gate crashing democratic rallies. It’s a long story but I did enjoy it.

    Rosemary, hmm excluded texts eh. Oscar Wilde’s work (frivolous but extensive vocabulary); poetry of Emily Dickinson; complete works of Thomas Aquinas in Latin and English (only way I’d ever actually get to read them all and learn better Latin at the same time is if I was stuck on a desert island). Oh, Julian of Norwich (you can see I am assuming a contemplative life on the island…..)

  21. Talking about this to daughter on phone – we found most of the books in the daemon library were books loved form being young. For her, Sunset Song, and the House at Pooh corner, and I needed to add The Wind in the Willows, and both Alices, and I think, the Secret Garden. Of books moderately recently read, That Old Ace in a Hole.

  22. Good point, Rosemary. I was thinking mostly of books read as an adult – particularly Four Quartets, Siri Hustvedt’s What I Loved, David James Duncan’s The River Why, George Herbert, and a rather random collection of other poetry. But thinking back it’s the ones from my childhood that made a real impact. I’d have to include Emily of New Moon by Lucy Maud Montgomery, The Little Princess and The Hobbit (which I’ve never read but had read to me when I was young).

    Oh dear. My list is getting a bit long and I could keep going…

    Kimberly, the political climate sounds very worrying indeed.

  23. Of course, Kimberly, I haven’t helped by giving you another book to tote back to Dunoon…

    My parents just forced me to cull more books from their house. Getting to be a yearly ritual. And the books are not really even mine anymore. It was still very difficult, and I only went through a few boxes. I must admit that when I joined my community (who told me at that point that I might bring two boxes of books with me), I had six sets of shelves at home and more sets at my parents’ house. Some were double stacked. Now fortunately I am in seminary where I have official need to collect course books. I think the library sisters panic at the end of each term when I start giving them more things to put on our limited and fairly full shelf space. I don’t do very well with this part of the vow of poverty! Surely books don’t count? (-:

    re: politics – who needs horror movies when speculation provides such ample possibilities?

  24. Yes, pleased to have the Kimberly eye view on the nominations.

    Re books: reading this sent me through to my bedroom to count the number in the basket beside my bed. 14. And 1 on the breakfast table.

    I think book lovers divide into those who love books as content and those who love books as objects. The latter group I suggest may be more likely to resist culling.

    May I take the space to suggest a peep at my blog -see blogroll ‘Alison Clark’. I threw out a writing challenge to which Chris has risen admirably.

  25. Content – there are a tiny number of books I associate with my mother which I love for themselves.

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