This is still the spare room, but this bookcase is overloaded to within an inch of its life. Really, I need to stop complaining about this and do something. But it’s no longer a matter of not wanting to buy any new bookcases: now I’ve genuinely run out of walls to put them against.
I could move to a bigger house, I suppose, but that seems like going too far.
I’m not serious. Really. The situation’s not that bad—but I would love a room where I could have floor-to-ceiling bookcases. With glass doors, to keep the dust down. And maybe cupboards underneath, to store magazines and so forth.
A library, basically. One day, I shall have a room in my house that I can legitimately call the library. One day.
In the meantime, I have a bookcase that’s carrying three times the load of books that it should be:
Actually, this shelf’s not so bad. (Ooh, pretend that you can’t see that collection of Walt Disney’s Annette at the back there—I genuinely have no idea why I bought those. They’re funky, though. Could they qualify as retro decorating items, do you suppose? No, didn’t think so.)
But what annoys me every time I look at this shelf is that I don’t have room for a dedicated detective-fiction bookcase. I’d really like that, because I have a fair number of mysteries (some blended with other genres, some classic), and they’re scattered all over the house: Reginald Hill here, along with Val McDermid (only the Kate Brannigan stuff, which I rather enjoy but don’t actively seek out: I stay away from the Lindsay Gordon mysteries, because they’re a little nasty for me), P. D. James on a lower shelf (I went through a P. D. James phase about a year ago, but I stopped after a while because I realised that Adam Dalgliesh inspired almost homicidal feelings in me. Once I realised that I was shouting, “Why would you propose to her, you daft twat?! She’s leaving because you’ve never even made time to have dinner with her, and you’ve only met her half a dozen times!” at the book while reading, I understood that they weren’t great for my blood pressure), Agatha Christie in the hallway along with my classic Victorian detective fiction, and poor old Rex Stout (bless you, Rex! You were the greatest of them all!) and Dorothy L. Sayers in the living room.
And that’s not even including the various one-offs and minor authors scattered around the place, or the genre-bending detective fiction, such as Simon R. Green’s Hawk and Fisher books on the next shelf down, or Glen Cook’s Garrett, P. I. series and Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy stories, which are in the hallway.
Sigh. One day. When I have my library, which I’ve just decided will have a skylight. A lead-light skylight. And one of those ladders on wheels—although Nick will never use one of those. I might need to rethink this fantasy.
But I’ve just noticed that this second shelf also has my copies of Mary Grant Bruce’s Billabong books. I don’t have a full collection—in fact, I was horrified to find out how many of them there are after I’d bought half a dozen; it was like buying a fantasy novel and then realising the cover indicates “Book One of the Twenty-Seven Book Cycle of the Mist Queen,” and thinking “Dang.” But I’d never read them, and I felt that having grown up in Australia, I should have read them.
I still haven’t read them. Naturally. But I will one day.
I like the new covers for Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series, there in the middle of the shelf under Kim Wilkins’s The Resurrectionists—that’s another book I haven’t read. I did start it, and I’ve read (and loved) the Gina Champion Mysteries (over to the left on the same shelf) because she’s an excellent writer. That’s the problem; she’s too good at writing scary stories. I read the first fifty-odd pages and decided there was no way I could use this as bedtime reading. (Actually, the first Gina Champion book, Bloodlace, terrified me, and they’re written for teenagers.) But I do mean to read the trilogy written around European folklore and, in fact, have the second one, Giants of the Frost, somewhere on this shelf.
And, hey, Garth Nix! That’s the Keys to the Kingdom series (I have the Abhorsen trilogy, in the living room), but I haven’t—surprise, surprise—read them yet. But I have a reason this time! I mean, a good reason. I bought these ones secondhand, and they only had volumes two and three: Grim Tuesday and Drowned Wednesday. So until I bother to buy the first one, Mister Monday, there’s not much point reading these two. Actually, it would probably be counter-productive.
I love the look of those Trixie Beldens, though. I think that’s a complete set: a complete set of the 1970s’ versions, anyway. I had to pick them up piecemeal, but I think I’ve found them all. And those books in front of them are the Dana Girls Mysteries, by the same “author.” Although, now I look closely, that’s only my paperback Dana Girls books. I wonder where I put the half-a-dozen 1970s’ hardbacks that I have?
Oh, who knows where anything is in this completely anarchic cataloguing system?
I see that that’s where I’ve put my Kim Harrison books, though. I was rather enjoying the first one, because the world-building was quite fascinating: essentially, when a genetically modified virus devastates the human population, the vampires, werewolves, witches, and so forth have to come forward in order to help keep basic systems operating (and thus ensure their own survival). But then I became distracted in the middle of the second one, put it down, and then never picked it up again.
I do like the titles, though: they’re all based on Westerns (in fact, I think they’re all Clint Eastwood Westerns): titles such as A Fistful of Charms and For A Few Demons More. I was rather irritated when The Outlaw Demon Wails—best title ever!—was renamed Where Demons Dare in the U. K. People in the U. K. are still going to get a joke based on The Outlaw Josey Wales, surely? I did!
Okay, this post has become far more verbose than intended. But the point of the next two photographs is to show that each of these overloaded shelves:
Also has a whole set of books behind the ones visible at the front of the shelves:
Oh, and perhaps you’d be kind enough to ignore the fact that I own four Pollyanna books, not just the original? Even though the later ones are written by different authors? I don’t quite know why I own four Pollyanna books—especially since all I can think about these days is that scene in the first League of Extraordinary Gentlemen where she points out that even though she’s been ravished by a demon, she’s determined to remain optimistic.
Seriously, though, there has to be something going on behind those books. No-one is that cheerful all the time without some reason. Perhaps she has a secret Lithium habit. Or is bonking the gardener (television has taught me that that’s a traditional way of alleviating boredom for upper-class housewives. Television can’t be wrong!). Or she has a carefully hidden gambling addiction and is over-compensating for the fact that she’s sold all the plate.
There has to be something, though.
On the other hand, now I look at exactly which books are hidden behind the front rows, I’m starting to see the benefits of double-stacking the bookcase.
I don’t intend to get rid of my David Eddings books, because they were gateway fantasy for me. (I first read them with my best friend when we stayed at her father’s house in Sydney for a week. She’d been reading them there and was on book two or three, so I started with book one, and we read through them together, pointing out the bits we especially liked.
But I don’t re-read them: I find the politics—including gender politics and racial issues, especially the fact that the crueler, evil races of this world are apparently Asian, while everyone else is happily Caucasian—questionable.
(It reminds me of when they filmed Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea for the Sci-Fi Channel and cast Shaun Ashmore as Ged. Really, you only needed to have skimmed the books to realise they were some of the least white books around! Le Guin herself rants, and quite rightly, about it here, if you haven’t come across this debate before.)
And on the shallowest level possible, I’m happier having Steven Brust and Charles Stross evident in the living room and hallway and these ones tucked away at the back of a bottom shelf in the spare room.