Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Books Do Furnish A Room

Oh friends, oh friends, oh friends: the home internet connection has been installed. I blog in comfort at a desk, using a keyboard, sitting in a comfy chair - all components of the compleat connectivity experience that I've been missing for the past three months. The computer is in the library, a cozy paneled room with built-in shelves and a radiator and a fireplace (gas, nothing currently hooked up).

This is a photo I took when we were viewing the house; somewhere in the jumble of boxes is the card reader for the digital camera, the chip of which has lots of newer pix.

When Darwin and I poked around the house right after getting the keys, we found that the previous owners had left the built-in shelves full of books. The collection was erudite: lots of collected letters or biographies of people I'd never heard of to know why their letters should be collected or their lives chronicled, and a great many novels that were considered Very Important the year they were written. Not much is newer than twenty years old; many books are much older. So far I have browsed a biography of a fellow named Trelawny, who I don't know why he's famous but he killed a crow when he was five; pondered biographies and autobiographies of Moss Hart, Zelda Fitzgerald, Tombee (a cotton planter, says the cover), and Julia Peterkin; browsed volumes of plays, letters, and journals; and considered the historical importance of Andersonville, the Constitutional Convention, Shaker furniture, Queen Victoria, and American Hymns.

A man's library is a window into his soul. Growing our own collection has always been important to us; we tend not to invest in the sort of books we wouldn't want to keep around. (Even Darwin's adolescent collection of SF is presentable, if somewhat lurid about the covers.) We're getting a sense of the previous owners through their books, and our impressions are favorable. And that's important, since they lived here for fifty years and left their mark on the house in many ways. I doubt any of our books will stay in the house whenever we move out (God forbid!), but I'd be fascinated to know what opinions a total stranger would form about us based on our library. And our bedrooms -- we keep books there, too. And our schoolroom. And our attic, and our living room... Our house is furnished and adorned with books; when you read our house, you read us.


bearing said...

Oo goodie! Free books!

I've always been intrigued at houses that had shelves full of random old books, and at their owners. Could they not assemble a library of their own without going to the local used book store and saying, "I'll take thirty-two feet, six inches of whatever you've got?"

lissla lissar said...

I worked in a small family-run chain of bookstores, and one of the guys I knew really did have someone come in and say, "I need twelve feet of books."


"I just moved. I got twelve feet of bookshelves- I need twelve feet of books for it."

They sold him all the stuff they hadn't been able to move, like A Complete History of Yodeling, and Those Whom God Has Blessed With Fingers, and all the Canadian lit about transvestite albino closet-dwelling piano players.

Anyway, I'm jealous. I love free books, and I love browsing other peoples' bookshelves.

Jordana said...

When we spent 6 weeks in London, the flat we lived in had lots of old books. It was fascinating to browse the shelves and wonder whether the guy who owned the place really cared about any of them.

Having met him, I wonder whether he bought the books by the foot too.

As for books in my house, I'm not sure if we have any rooms that don't have books in them.

Barb said...

I would love going through all of those books too! We have books in the kitchen, boxes and shelves of books in the basement and a large walk-in closet upstairs which is filled with books.
Every time we rent a house somewhere on vacation, I always have a good time going through the books the owners leave tells so much about them.

Mrs. Zummo said...

Just visited an elderly couple from Church, and their house was full of nice holy books on all topics religious and moral. Even their videos were of the EWTN variety. It made me a little ashamed. We do have some of those books, but we also have some that are less...well...elevated. Our DVD collection is a particular offender. Maybe our friends have a shame shelf somewhere with trashy best sellers that we didn't see.