books – stacked all over the place

I am thoroughly enjoying Rebecca Makkai’s novel, The Borrower.

I had to angle the vacuum carefully around the stacks of books that served as a sort of second furniture, pedestals for coffee cups and mail and magazines.  I refused to have bookshelves, horrified that I’d feel compelled to organize the books in some regimented system–Dewey or alphabetical or worse–and so the books lived in stacks, some as tall as me, in the most subjective order I could invent.

Thus Nabokov lived between Gogol and Hemingway, cradled between the Old World and the New; Willa Cather and Theodore Dreiser and Thomas Hardy were stacked together not for their chronological proximity but because they all reminded me in some way of dryness (though in Dreiser’s case I think I was focused mostly on his name); George Eliot and Jane Austen shared a stack with Thackeray because all I had of his was Vanity Fair, and I thought that Becky Sharp would do best in the presence of ladies (and deep down I worried that if I put her next to David Copperfield, she might seduce him).  Then there were various stacks of contemporary authors who I felt would get along together at cocktail parties, and there were at least three stacks of books I personally loathed but held on to just in case someone asked me to loan them a page-turner about a family of circus performers, or an experimental novel about a time-traveling nun.  I’d hate to have to say that I knew the perfect book but I’d just given it away.  Not that people often asked.  But once in a while my landlord, Tim, or his partner, Lenny, would invite themselves in to peruse the stacks and ask the world’s best question:  “Hey, what do you think I should read?”  It was nice to be prepared.

These stacks were my apartment’s main decoration. . . .


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