Monday, October 16, 2006

Where I'm Blogging From

[posted by Callimachus]

Is about 12 feet southwest of where it was before this week, in case you sense a shift in my positions. We cleaned out the second upstairs room (formerly "green room" or "computer room") to make it into the baby's room.

If you've lived in a house for 16 years, as I have in this one, every large-object movement can set off a chain reaction that can transform the identity of entire floors. You inherit a decorative end-table from some great-aunt's estate and the next thing you know you've got your kitchen where your bed used to be.

In this case, moving the computer into the old middle room, which already was half a library, made it the real thing, since the computer drags with it a stack of books I find I frequently consult while doing whatever it is I do sitting in this chair.

[That yellow chair, by the way, came from a hotel lobby somewhere; a guy who used to be in the neighborhood scrounged or stole a lot of them and was selling them cheap off his porch. It's fairly hideous, but has the right mix of "comfortable" and "not so comfortable you fall asleep in it."]

The mouse arrangement on the phone book is completely jerry-rigged out of my left-handed necessity. Everyone else complains. And the computer desk is a laminated old beater from Home Despot or some such place, but none of the ones I've looked at to replace it have as much bookshelf and cabinet space, which I need.

So we went the other eight yards once we'd started and turned this middle room into a full-bore library. Here's one wall of it. My history books, mostly.

Isn't she lovely? That's part of what I spent the last week doing: assembling these shelves then stocking them. You can have some fun shelving books, if you're dull and twisted, because it's like seating a big dinner table. I enjoyed putting the collected works of the Marquis de Sade next to Erich Fromm's "Art of Loving" and Gertrude Himmelfarb next to Camile Paglia. Yeah, I know: I should get out more.

It's still not home to every book in the house; there are four bookcases down in the living room still and Luke's books are in his room. But out of all these acres of shelf-space, this little low-riser now houses all that remains of my fiction and poetry, except about another shelf-worth downstairs:

The costume and textile books on either side are Amy's. Once upon a time, the ratio of non-fiction to fiction/literature in my life would have been the reverse of what it is now. The change started 20 years ago when I began to write on the American Civil War and had to start piling up a library of ready sources on that topic. But since 9/11 I've found I can hardly read fiction anymore and have only read two or three novels start to finish in the years since that day, while still reading a couple of books a month on average.

I've talked to other people who have experienced the same thing. Long-time readers and lovers of literature. We'll still joust about authors and styles, but then quietly admit we just don't have the patience to be lured into someone else's world anymore when there's so much we desperately want to learn about this one.

Which means we -- I -- have lost the key to the kind of learning that I used to get from poetry. Poems are often untrue, but they can teach you things more true than the facts.