I am reading and loving The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Volume Five, 1936-1945. In college I read A Writer’s Diary, edited by Leonard Woolf, and admired this short fascinating volume. She writes so elegantly: she could make a notebook of scribbled website urls look interesting. Thus I must share an amusing quotation from an entry which mentions my favorite book, War and Peace.
On January 11, 1936, Woolf recorded her niece’s short visit. “Ann popped in suddenly after lunch; bare legs, socks, tousled hair; wanted to borrow the second vol. of War & Peace for Judith who’s had her tonsils out.”
Do nieces read War and Peace these days? Perhaps secretly. At my house a visit from a niece would go more like this: “Ann popped in suddenly after lunch; patched jeans, no socks, disheveled hair; wanted to borrow Peyton Place because she needed a trashy read after a chemistry midterm.”
Peyton Place, War and Peace–same number of syllables–I must be a genius!
I gave away two of my four copies of War and Peace, my favorite novel, because they were oversized and hurt my wrists to hold!
MY SHELF ARRANGEMENT DIARY!
Speaking of diaries, here is a Diary of a Shelf Arranger.
Years ago all my books fit in one bookcase.
Then my husband and I “colonized” a run-down neighborhood by buying a cheap house. The house was big and cold, and we wore jackets and fingerless gloves inside, but at least we had room for books. In our love of collecting books, we drove all over the midwest and haunted used bookstores (including The Haunted Bookshop in Iowa City) , library sales (we once went to one in Winona, Minnesota), and Borders everywhere. All those old library books with mylar covers and tacky stickers on the spine! And a copy of Barry Unsworth’s Sacred Hunger for 50% off!
Years later, we have so many books. And most have that “worn-out old-book” look because they were already ancient when we bought them.
So should I arrange them in the style of favorite used bookstores? Or would that be too formal for home life?
Here are a couple of methods I’m considering:
1. Shelf all the Folio Society books together (they do this at Jackson Street Booksellers in Omaha). The FS volumes are tall and oversized and look better together. But if I put them together, I’ll break up my Thomas Hardy collection. Turns out I have the FS version of Tess of the D’Urbervilles, illustrated with woodcuts by Peter Reddick. Did I buy it at Jackson Street Booksellers? I’d forgotten I had it. I also have a Modern Library paperback of Tess, a 1950s Heritage Press edition with illustrations, and a Penguin Hardcover Classic.
Should I start a separate Tess section?
2. Create a Thomas Hardy section. I HAD NO IDEA WE HAD SO MUCH THOMAS HARDY UNTIL I SHELVED ALL OUR BOOKS. A Penguin paperback and an Everyman’s Library hardback of The Woodlanders; two Signets (one my husband’s) and an Oxford paperback of Jude the Obscure; three paperback copies and a Heritage Press hardback of my favorite, The Master of Casterbridge; Selected Poems and Collected Poems; and a few Pocket Book collections of short stories with minuscule print We also have a battered copy of The Well-Beloved holding up one of our windows.
3. If I Create a Thomas Hardy section, I have to create a Dickens section, a Jane Austen section, a John Updike section, etc.
4. But wouldn’t it be better to go by centuries? Shakespeare and Milton, 18th century, first half of 19th century, second half of 19th century, first half of 20th century, etc. That’s the way I think of books–in terms of centuries!
5. Put all the Library of America editions together. That probably wouldn’t work, though. I don’t have that many.