Sunday, February 15, 2009

No Plan B

Well, that didn’t exactly go the way it was supposed to. If only I had crossed the room and started cleaning the DVD stacks yesterday morning, things might have gone a whole lot quicker. After all, that just involves clearing the shelves, dusting and polishing, sorting the various films and boxsets out, adding in any new arrivals piled up on the table and putting them all back in place.

Because the depth of the stacks mean the DVDs are two rows deep on each shelf there may be titles in back I haven’t seen for a while so there’s always the temptation to put one on, maybe switch on a commentary that I haven’t heard for a while or maybe haven’t gotten around to listening to yet. Either way, I can still carry on while that’s playing out onscreen. With the bookshelves that’s a different matter.

Sure I pretty much see the row upon row of spines every day, whether I properly take note of them or not, but taking the books from each shelf down in turn and piling them up on the desk to be able to polish the wood, meant I got to look at the covers. An interesting title or cover artwork is never something that can easily be cast aside. Whether it was the shelves of hardback or paperback books, fiction or non-fiction, every one of them stirred up memories, either from the story on the pages or the time and place I read it.

There are the books re-read on numerous occasions and some I still haven’t gotten around to like Gitta Sereny’s biography of Albert Speer. There are books bought for reference where only relevant passages were pored over or some that were simply abandoned. Going out with The One that Got Away, I was reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night. Undressing for bed, she saw it on the nightstand and commented that some of her school friends nicknamed her Nicole because she had reminded them so much of Dick Diver’s wife. The bookmark still remains on page 159 where I stopped reading that very night.

While I can re-read Neal Stephenson’s excellent Cryptonomicon until well after the cows come home, I gave up on Quicksilver, his next book, after reading just over 300 of the 900+ pages because I couldn’t see where the hell he was going with it. Not every author gets a free pass. A Prayer for Owen Meany may be a favourite but the row of John Irving novels stop with a signed hardback of A Widow for One Year and go no further.

From shelf to shelf, Ian Fleming and Len Deighton, Dennis Lehane and Lee Child sit within reach of Melville and Dumas, Mark Twain and Jules Verne, Kerouac and Clarkson. There are authors I’m only beginning to discover after set texts for O- and A-level courses put me off them for years, although I could never penetrate the Russian classics. Still, there are always the books that the Delightful LA Actress bought for me while I was picking out titles for her, ones that I probably never would have gotten for myself.

Taking the books off the shelves, many were difficult to put down. So instead of racing through the chores and getting everything squared away on time, by Saturday evening I was still flicking through the pages of Carol Hill’s wonderfully bonkers Amanda & the Eleven Million Mile High Dancer, having previously dipped into The Handbook of Folklore by Charlotte Sophia Burne, Carl Hiaasen’s scathing Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World, and the trade paperback of Dan Brereton’s Nocturnals: Black Planet.

Today I promised to put my back into it and get everything finished by lunchtime but after breakfast and the Sunday papers, I rediscovered Bill Watterson’s The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes and Jill Thompson’s Scary Godmother books, which hampered proceedings considerably. Just when I thought everything was back on track, there, between The Hammer Story and Mike Mignola’s The Art of Hellboy was The Ultimate Authority by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch. There went the afternoon.

Still, the bookcases are now refilled. The wood gleams. Even the spines look more colourful. Rather than cross the room and take apart the six shelves filled exclusively with various editions of Harlan Ellison books, from paperback reading copies to slipcased limited editions, with some hours still on the clock I started on the DVDs, which are now filled up on the sofa and the floor. Is it too late to watch a movie?


At 12:47 am, Blogger Jaded and Cynical said...

One of the curious benefits of the shabby state of TV is that it's becoming a little easier to find time and space for books.

I've read more in the past six weeks than I'd normally do in a year.

Perhaps there should be a BAFTA award for the channel most likely to make a viewer switch off and do something useful with his time.

At 10:18 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

Well, the award would be shared by ITV and BBC3 for starters.

Actually, I’ve found myself reading more. I’m currently halfway through The Time Machine, which is the opener of an HG Wells omnibus that includes The Island of Dr Moreau, The War of the Worlds and The First Men in the Moon.

After I’m through with that a lot of the books will be coming off the shelves for another go around.


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