Correspondence, continued

A loyal reader writes,
Dear Fount of Wisdom,
I have tried to arrange the books in my home by color, but thoughtfully, so that they are both useful and beautifully arranged. The resultant abject failure is more than I can bear. How can I be exactly like you?
How it both delights and pains me to read Ann[onymous]'s note. It is a particular joy to me that she would endeavor to perfect her already beautiful home. That she would attempt to incorporate my Unimpeachable Design Tenets is a testament to, well, me. Alas, Ann[onymous], like so many others, has stumbled, scraping her design knee. We are here to help, Ann (can I call you Ann?), and will see to it that you aren't, as the great Elizabeth Zimmerman would say, "forced to sup the porridge of regret with the spoon of sorrow."

Arranging one's books by color is a risky business. Some might scoff at it entirely, and I do not recommend the practice for all of one's tomes. But, as a design accent, or perhaps for a collection of romance novels, what's the hurt? I pulled all our red books to create a lovely finish to a bookcase that had a raw edge (it had once been a built in; see below, left). But note, Ann, the books are on their sides, and arranged by size within each invisible shelf. It's not just willy nilly. And I can't imagine trying it with more than one color (unless I had a LOT of books of a certain color). When it comes to the actual bookcase, the books are arranged sensibly (see detail below, center), as books should be. We arrange mostly by category, though I will admit the categories are sometimes known only to me. There's poetry, and travel, and books I should read but won't (Tess of the D'Urbervilles? Ain't gonna happen), or books I bought in hardback and never should have (Jane Smiley's Moo tops that list). Then there are earnest books about the gays, and Eric's special collection of how-to books (bindings intact; the titles all contain the word dummy or abs). You get the idea.

Our cookbooks, and there are too many of them, are in the kitchen, stacked on another invisible shelf that is starting to get on my nerves a bit. Most used are in the center, where they're easy to grab. Up top you'll find Juicing Turnips for Fun and Profit. Down at the bottom you'll find Famous Chefs Concoct Recipes You Can Neither Reproduce Nor Afford

So you see Ann, many options exist for your own books. Knowing how well-read you are, I doubt you need my help categorizing (though I would be happy to make up categories for you). I don't think arranging cookbooks by color is going to help you much either. Rather, I suggest you find some more tangible, useful way to categorize such a special topic. For instance, you could read each cookbook, keeping track of the tablespoons of butter used in each, and arrange them in descending order of fat content. Just an idea. Alphabetically by vegetable works, too.

One more thing: it's possible that I paraphrased Ann's note just a bit. You can read her full text, if you must, in the comments section of A Weeknight Supper.


Stephanie said...

Ann must have been out of the room when I did my mini-intervention on you for your (incorrectly) reported system of organizing books according to color.

K recently asked how I selected books to be displayed in my living room (rather than in the office, where most of my bookshelf space is), and I told him that he would have to figure that one out on his own (it's really not difficult). A more exciting game for my next party might be to have guests figure out my organizational systems for my CDs and DVDs. Ann will not be allowed to participate, because I already explained it to her in great length (at least for the DVDs).

deb said...

If I read between the lines, I think you're suggesting that *my* method is less desirable than yours.

I prefer the strew-it-about and make-a-random-pile-when-you-have-to system.

In this way, my entire life is one long game of Scavenger Hunt, and I never have to lose my child-like sense of play.

hahahahahahahahahahaha sob hahahahahahaha

Ann said...

Alas, Stephanie, you were the one who REPORTED Scott's method to me. Had you, perhaps, explained it more thoroughly, you could have saved G40 the trouble.

FYI: One of the reasons I designed my own home was to include an actual library (floor to ceiling shelves with a sliding ladder, just like in Beauty and Beast, the sight of which made me cry in the theater) so that I could stop the bookshelves-in-every room and random piling madness. Of course, the library is now full (despite the buy-a-book, sell-a-book rule, too oft ignored) and books have begun to stew about. Thus the attempt to rearrange a few shelves last Monday.

I already have a satisfying organizational method in the library proper, but thanks for your kind offer of systemization assistance. Highlights include fiction and nonfiction on opposite sides of the room, with fiction alphabetized and nonfiction categorized. Poetry, English language/theory, literature anthologies, and drama have their own shelves proper, while Shakespeare has two shelves. The bottom row, all the way across, is my children's section (rarely used by children, surprisingly useful for teaching high schoolers, who easily pick up the meaning of alliteration from Dr. Seuss's "B Book"). I recently noticed that my Stephen King section is ordered by publishing date, but other multiple volume authors are arranged to look pretty (usually by height).

I have decided the following, thanks to our host. A small pile of mismatched, non-thematically chosen books sits on my fireplace mantle. These were selected by my mother, who rearranges EVERYTHING whenever she visits (just ask my poor migrating plants). This little collection of books is ugly like the dead brown grass outside my window. And if you know how much I adore snow cover, you know that means UGLY. I shall remove the offending volumes and replace them with a smart pile of horizontally stacked red books.

I promise to report when the stack has been assembled.

PS After hearing Steph's DVD org. method, I have become a believer in "particularism" as a serious disease.

Stephanie said...

Yes, Ann, before my housewarming, I told you what K had incorrectly told me: that Scott arranges ALL his books according to color.

During my housewarming, I shared my feelings about this with Scott (we may or may not have passed a "talking pillow" around during this mini-intervention), telling him that it was keeping me awake at night, wondering if he would, say, actually split up the Harry Potter series because the covers have different colors. Scott then reassured me by explaining that K had been mistaken: Scott and Eric just have the one column of red books (I did misunderstand part of Scott's explanation that night and thought that he had one invisible bookcase filled with red cookbooks). In any case, I've been sleeping much better ever since.

You, Ann, were apparently not in the room during this exchange and perhaps did not hear me shouting my relief from the rooftops, so I sincerely apologize for allowing you to continue to live under this horrible misconception.

Next step: an intervention on K about his apparent use of hallucinatory drugs! (I think K actually told me that he had HELPED Scott arrange all his books according to color, which led K to arrange all his own cookbooks by color. And maybe his other books, too?)

P.S. If I truly suffered from the most serious form of particularism, I would be unable to allow my French-titled DVDs and books to co-exist next to the English-titled ones, not only due to the disconcerting mixing of languages, but also due to the fact that French publishers write titles on the binding in the opposite direction (English titles run from the top of the spine to the bottom, whereas French titles run from the bottom to the top), which means that you have to turn your head from one side to the other to read the different titles in a row of mixed-language books and DVDs. If I were truly sick, the fact that this bugs me every time I look at such a shelf would force me to create new organizational sub-categories and separate these sub-groups. But because I am Master of my condition, I am able to deal with rocking my head back and forth as I read the titles on the shelves, and most people don't even know about this horrible tragedy in my life. The rest of my DVD organizational method is simply Right and Salutory.

deb said...

Axis 1: 309.4 Adjustment disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct

Axis 2: 301.4 Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder

Axis 3: None known

Axis 4: Mild to moderate stressors including atypical sequencing of educational milestones, disruption in homelife due to forced international relocation, occupational stress due to NCLB and enforced daily interaction with adolescents, recent recovery from eight years of Republican hegemony

Axis 5: Current GAF = 62
Moderate symptoms including some difficulty in tasks of daily living, only partial management of obsessional rituals, poor insight regarding accurate context and meaning of behaviors.

Prognosis: Somewhat guarded, due to poor insight mentioned above.

Client denies suicidality, is able to contract for safety, and is able to understand the implications of withholding information. Client is able to enter legal contracts and sign checks.

Manda said...

I think arranging books by color is an excellent idea. One I may have to take up although I am prone to chronological arrangement. The one tower of books by your countertop looks to be waning a bit to the left. I have ignored such piles in my own home only to be woken up in the middle of the night by books falling from the sky around me. (my shelf was mounted to the perimeter of my bedroom, near the ceiling) Not a pleasant way to rest.