Sunday, April 15, 2012

Treasure Triage

"Papyrus Harvest" from: Wikimedia Commons

"Then comes a morning, usually in late March or early April, when the strengthening sun streams through my windows, throwing a clear light on the tangle of volumes that amble like ivy across coffee tables, nightstands and countertops. I take a deep breath, stiffen my back and prepare to weed. [...]     Some of the choices are relatively painless; it’s almost a relief to discover that part of the bibliophilic undergrowth I’m cutting through is the result of duplicate copies.  My wife and I had some books in common when we tied the knot and merged our libraries, and in narrowing two sets of Jane Austen’s novels to one, we’re voting with confidence on the future of our marriage. [...]
     But any book weeder, no matter how lenient, inevitably wonders if he’s weeding too much. Like many readers, I’ve often confronted the basic dilemma of culling one’s shelves, which is that the book one gives away today is the very title that will be needed — or fervently desired — tomorrow.
     [...] Why weed bookshelves at all? Why not simply build more shelves to accommodate the overload — or, if necessary, move to a bigger place? What’s more, with the rise of electronic books, which can store thousands of titles within a laptop, book weeding just might become a happily forgotten art."
— Danny Heitman, Salon

"What's the point of keeping most books once they've been read? They huddle together on the shelves and then, when shelf space runs out, they stand around in precarious columns on the floor, making fossil impressions on the carpet, doing nothing really more serious than bearing witness to what you've read in the past few decades. Do they speak to your visitors of your capacious literary appetite? Or do they just count as old friends, the rows of Nabokovs and Thomas Manns, standing protectively around you on permanent guard?"
— Stuart Walton, The Guardian

"Two years ago, I re-organized my library, and gave away 20 cartons of books, culled according to the following general principles:
♦ Unless you are an Egyptologist, you only need one, at most two, enormous coffee table books on the Art of the Pharaohs.
♦ If a country, like Czechoslovakia, no longer exists, it’s unlikely that you’ll want to take the travel guide along with you when you go.
♦ If the reproductions in an art book are so fuzzy and blurred that you can’t tell the work of the Impressionists from that of the Pointillists, or even from the Surrealists, get rid of it.
♦ Ask yourself the following hard question and answer honestly: If I live to be 100, will I read this book again?"
— Francine Prose, The New York Times

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