Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Part 5 - The Nature of Books and Business - A Tour of the Books in My Bedroom

Exciting things are happening in the world outside the Dreamtime, and as is custom the more time you spend with Meatworld things the less time you have in the Dreamtime.

Everything has a balance, everything has a cost. The loss of momentum with the tour echoes the loss of momentum for solving the issues that led to the book collecting in their home in the first place and now it is time to return to the Books in the Bedroom - specifically the Stack of Books Next to the Hidden Bookshelf.

A quick recap is in order -

In Part 2 I tour the Books that Became Decor and was startled to find that many of them were decor because I didn't really like them much

In Part 3 I tour the Stack of Books Under the Window - which are primarily hardcovers and discuss the system by which books were supposed to enter and leave the bedroom

In Part 4 I tour the Books in the Hidden Bookshelf and the history of bookshelves in my former bedrooms and the place of books in my house and my emotional landscape. I even surprised me.

Part 5 is this one - it's not terribly long.

Section 1 - The Poetry of What Remains

Stacked exactly as they are, the books create a poem of their own. A scarily accurate one:

The line between
the Receiving
Wandering Stars making money
Selling the Invisible a Mind at a time

Words on Fire: One woman's journey into the Sacred
The Queen's Bastard
"XXXholic" The Unicorn Sonata

Of course the actual titles by themselves are less connected:

The Queens Bastard - by C.E. Murphy ( this was not my kind of book at all, I think it came into the house by way of The Girl)
XxxHolic Volume 12 by Clamp (The three X's are a mathematic variable not the the standard English Usage of the triple x in media)

Section 2 - How did they get there?

The Peter S. Beagle books were books I purchased directly from him at the event where I met the Poppets, which, on reflection was 2008 not 2009 as I previously estimated. I had his books from that event in the pile of "to be read" on my night table. They are non-standard sized beautifully illustrated books.

Words on Fire and The Receiving were books I was reading to put a historical context on the role I was trying to create spiritually in my organized religion. They were a way of understanding the barriers that I was experiencing as a Meatworld woman trying to fuse what the religion actually meant with the way it was practiced. Words On Fire is how I feel about studying Torah and Talumd. The words of Torah and Talmud are the real Ner Tamid ( eternal light) represented by the continuos light infront of the Aron Khodesh (the fancy box we keep the torah scrolls in at synagoge). Words alone can burn you up. Practice and application in the Meatworld makes you confront the reality of those words.

In my religion, as in many others, that struggle is usually written and recorded by men, and they declare women as "more spiritual" or "closer to God" and "excuse" them from the extra work of learning and studying because they "don't need it". In reality, to be able to study and be transported by those fiery words, or see them as anything other than fairy stories or literal instruction ( both of which are huge mistakes in Judaism) you need someone taking care of the kids, the businesses, and the laundry. All of the work to create the ritual meals, ritual spaces and transportive theater has to be done by someone whose eyes aren't burning with spirit but whose hands are busy polishing the silver and cooking the festive meal before the deadline so those holy, holy men can come in and be transported.

To no one's surprise those busy hands belong to the "more spiritual" women so the "weak" men can go learn and feel and do.

There has always been a deep spirituality to the women's work because of the way Judiaism is constructed, and literacy is required of all Jews including women's Torah Study. but it has frequently been denied or denigrated by the men who write the "serious" religious works. It's changing, but not from the outside, not by adding to it, but from the inside from uncovering things. There is in Catholicism something called a "sin of omission" and Jewish theology and educational traditions are rife with it. It's not that learned women didn't exist, it's just that periodically their history, commentary and contributions just got edited out as irrelevant or ignored as unbelievable. Judaic authorities don't really get rid of anything though and as society needed less back breaking labor just to get through a day of meal preparation women started asking questions and found documentation and we're still trying to sort it out. I'm in that sorting it out place.

Judaism works best for me with a lot of spirituality and intent, and a moderate amount of organized religion, but I found the more I actually cared about the spiritual part the less the organized part was working for me. In synagogue people who were more spiritual than I was were also more set in their patterns of thinking, but people who practiced the way that I did weren't really looking at the words with their little crowns in the Torah and seeing the fire.

Dealing with The Girl's illness was making me less social and more confused. It was unpleasant for me to go to shul. Those books came into the House for me to hear other women's voices. The words were burning me, the people were scarring me, these books helped cool things down for my fevered brain.

The book A Mind at A Time is about dealing with non-standard brains, completely Meatworld, given to me by another parent of another child with a different cause but similar presentation. It's painful for me to read it. I've read chapters, I skip around. It's still in the bedroom because it's a good, important book but unfinished. Words and The Reciving are still in the bedroom because I am unfinished. A Mind at A Time in in the bedroom because I'm still in denial about the darker years of The Girl's illness.

Selling the Invisible is a book about advertising but I've found it really useful as a project manager and someone who champions process solutions. It also helps make some sense of the constant barrage of overt and subliminal marketing we are exposed to constantly, not in a cynical anti-consumerist manner but in understanding the place of services and ideas in a capitalistic market place and how to position them and yourself in relation to them. It keeps coming back into the bedroom because I keep referencing it in other things. Somwhere in it I keep thinking there is a synergy between needs/desires and usability. That sweet spot between design, process, and end user. It's not in an obvious place but I keep glimpsing it obliquely, and I keep going back to it for that reason.

Section 3 - The Business and Nature Part

None of these books would have been obtained as e-books, they all have stories behind them and some were gifted or recommended. Some were purchased specifically to support the author. Some were because I would only find what I was looking for from people who had already tried to answer some of the same questions. The Beagle books were new, the rest were purchased used.

Undeniably, they are a snapshot to the six months they represent - I was struggling with the after effects of being the parent of a seriously ill child, my place in my religion and my ability to present transformative suggestions to my workplace. Intermixed with shadows of the world I used to walk in comfortably, the Pratchett and the Beagle work being things I fell into. It was important to remember humor and fantasy and at the time I was working through all the other books, I possibly lost track of the lightness of both.

The next entry will be The Books I'm Getting Ready to Read, and they will include the e-books that have been purchased between the start of this series and Part 6. Then we can talk about what it means to support your author between e-books and physical books

Monday, July 4, 2011

Part 4 - The Nature of Books and Business - A Tour of the Books In My Bedroom -

The Books on the Hidden Bookshelf

Recap: I am currently blogging in an experimental fashion about the books in my bedroom and their relationship to the larger issue of electronic books versus physical books. The experimental part is that instead of approaching each entry in a formal essay, I am allowing the associations that happen with the books to become a kind of stream of consciousness reflection on whether the physical books or the electronic books would make a difference or have the same impact. This has led to some unexpected things.

In this part I list all of the books and explain why they became permanent residents, and the system by which books are supposed to come in and leave the bedroom. I do offer reviews of the content of the books.

In this part I explain how the system started breaking down, why the books in the stack are there and the emotional meanings of books in general and bedrooms gone by. I list the books and talk a bit about bedrooms gone by and some really personal things. All because of books. Who knew?

And this is Part 4 the tour of the Books in the Hidden Bookshelf.

Section 1 - How Did That Bookshelf Get There?

The first thing about the bookshelf is that it shouldn't be there. In Part 3, I explained that I never intended for there to be a bookshelf in the bedroom. As much as I love my books (and love them I do) I really wanted my bedroom to be a cozy, light, but uncluttered place. I dream about old school, mahogany shelved, multistory formal libraries, but did not want my bedroom to be that space. And I know from experience that bookshelves bring clutter in a bedroom. Extensions of the shelving just become another flat surface to put things down in a hurry.

But the movement of books down to the family-room basement wasn't happening quickly and the tendency to re-read an entire series when a new book was added to it meant that we were bringing up books and needed someplace to hold them. It was possible that we just ran out of room to add shelves downstairs and needed to add shelves to our room as well.

The problem is shelving that didn't look cheap, actually wasn't cheap. I started looking for low impact cheap solutions that might take some of the pressure off. At no point did it occur to us to get rid of books. We go back to them.

What I really wanted to do was redo the basement and get some order into the overwhelmed book collection. The Perfectly Normal Husband's bookshelves were 36 inches wide and 13 inches deep. For the reference and serious books that was great, because the shelves supported non-standard sizing and he has some very large books. But the upper shelves were filled with paperbacks which he has three deep vertically and then two more layers horizontally. The shelves have bowed. This is bad.

I don't know what's on the shelves to find anything - this is non-functional. There are also shelves within the closets under the stairs - that's where most of the family room books went when the Perfectly Normal Husband moved in, there's still room there. On the other side are two smaller bookshelves that display hardcovers and collectible dolls. The family room is where our personal knick-knacks go. I would like to replace all of the shelving with something that is less deep but has more shelves, and instead of stacking the books between shelves actually have shelves between book layers to distribute the weight. So I planned after a great deal of research to use the Ikea Billy system. We'll lose some depth but not too much and it's cheap enough to keep adding to. But the Perfectly Normal Husband had two additional shelves he had never set up before, and so we used our much vaunted common sense and tried that first, because they were already paid for.

In truth, one single bookshelf will fix the overflow and back up that has led to extra books in the bedroom. However, it ended up that there was no "good" place to put that bookshelf once it was built, creating a completely different set of problems with the basement/family room space.

Since the majority of the books that were causing organizational issues were paperback, I had an epiphany - there was all sorts of DVD shelving now. Were paperbacks really different from CD in terms of depth? Because if they weren't I could acquire less massive, less expensive DVD shelving and still have it be decorative and useful, also keeping the footprint light. The bookshelf behind the door in the bedroom is an experiment with the Ikea Benno. It's only 6.5 is inches deep and I was right; paperbacks sit on it beautifully.

So I bought one to try it and placed it behind the door so that I could see if it really was as unobtrusive as I thought it might be. I was considering two thin shelves under the windows so that they would normally be covered by the drapes. When I sorted the bedroom overflow books into paperbacks and hard covers I put all of the paperbacks on this shelf. Which is how I discovered the reality of books coming back upstairs when we re-read series. It worked well but the idea is supposed to be that this shelf would be transitional, to hold books that were coming up or going down. It's been there for a year, because no action has been taken on fixing the family room issue and it's currently engaged in the process of proving my flat surface shelving = clutter theory.

Section 2 - The Top of the Shelf: With the Clockwork Dragon . . .

. . .has the packaging for two ornaments I am changing into food carts for the Poppet Circus. I should throw these out. In reality I am going to alter them so that their collectible value will be nill and I have customized storage for them when they are done. There's no point in saving their original packaging. Now that I've typed this I'm irritated with myself. The actual peices are already in the Poppet Circus tent. Grrr. Hold on.

Ok. They're in the trash. How stupid of me. I really had to type that to get rid of them? What was I waiting for?

Now on top of the shelf there is a Collector's DVD of Elizabeth Taylor's Cleopatra, a Pussycat Dolls exercise DVD, a copy of The Grass Dancer by Susan Power, the DVD of Bye Bye Birdie from the local theater production where I worked on costumes to support them but did not audition. A custom leather small sized note/sketch book and a copy of Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart.

There is also a ziplock baggie of costume jewelry that has to be returned to Holly the Costume Mistress from the last show we did. Chances are fairly high that it will be there until the start of the next show we do which will have the costumer's meeting in August. And there is one specialized lens cleaning cloth to be used on glasses and iPads.

Cleo is there because of a school requirement where I had to write an essay on the historical veracity of the film vs. actual history, it was both more and less accurate than I expected. The Pussycat Dolls are there because I need to exercise and I like dancing more than I like anything else. Plus their music is good for working out, I miss when they did covers of standards - but at the moment both spaces where I could work out with this DVD are not workout friendly so on top shelf it sits. The Grass Dancer belongs to The Boy, it was required reading and in my room because I was helping him with an essay. Wicked Plants was picked up at Longwood Gardens to while away some time while waiting for an outdoor performance.

Section 3 - The Top Row shown by the Cosmic Poppet

This shelf has a bit of archaeological information associated with it. The Jousting Dragons trilogy by Lackey was purchased in one fell swoop, most likely in the same trip that the Harold Coyles were purchased. I read semi-compulsively and therefore try not to buy trilogies or series until they are completed. My most recent mistake is thinking that people write trilogies anymore. The other thing is that you will see a number of Neil Gaiman books. This shows that the year these books were up in the bedroom was 2009.

In May of 2009 I attended Balticon and met Poppets, through Poppets I met Lisa, through Lisa's blog I met the broader range of Gaiman's work.

It's not that I had never been exposed to his work before. He was responsible for two of the comics that I collect, Books of Magic and Tim Hunter, but he had moved on from both of these titles by the time I was serious about them, so I knew him mostly through back issues. I have a long and complicated history with Good Omens so about every other year people who were serious fans of Gaiman would give me a copy of the book. That is another story, the story of how Neil Gaiman is haunting me. I had American Gods because I like the work of Charles deLint, and I had read Anansi Boys because I like the work of Charles de Lint. I loved Anansi Boys and thought American Gods was interesting. But meeting many of the people in and around Gaiman's world that May of 2009, made me more interested in his other work. I was trying to understand the level of loyalty, inspiration and intelligent but still fannish behavior. So I started with the things I already had. Then when the friend whom I was helping at Balticon found out I was finally interested he insisted I read Sandman. I can honestly say I would have been frustrated with it in it's monthly comic book format however I adored it in the collected trade editions where I could read it like a graphic novel. I hunted them down in their complete set from Vertigo using bricks and mortar comic shops, actual bookstores and the internet. I made sure that all of the forms of commerce got my money.

Sandman is brilliant. I inadvertantly had read something featuring his Death a while before. So during 2009, when given the opportunity, I bought Neil Gaiman's work because even when it wasn't phenomenal it was always interesting.

Section 4 - The Books on the Second Shelf Down
This shelf has the only "normal sized" Gregory Maguire paperback I own. I enjoyed it. I appreciate his use of words and the way he plays with ideas. This is not a fairy tale, although it is a something that involves fairies. On this shelf are three books that would not be taking up literal space if I had an e-reader at the time. The Kelley Armstrongs and the Lackey. The Women of the Otherworld series I buy the way my mother used to buy romance novels. I like her characters and her magic structure and her pulp-light mentality. I am curious as to what happens next but after six of them I don't need them physically. They work great on an e-reader even when it was just my iPhone.

The Snow Queen is part of The Five Hundred Kingdoms one of the absolute lightest frothiest fun worlds Lackey has written. It's on the Luna imprint which is supposed to be some sort of romance/fantasy hybrid label ( most of those suck - Luna is trying to make it not suck). While the intro pieces were interesting Lackey's is the only one I kept buying the follow ups for - but once again it's light and fun and I bought The Sleeping Beauty and Dragon in Distress on Kindle which worked out kind of perfect. I won't be purchasing a physical version of Five Hundred Kingdoms until the series looks to be finished and then I might want the full set for the shelf.

Section 5 - On the third shelf down from the top

It was the covers that attracted me to the John Zakour/Lawerence Ganem books and my desperate wish for anything new and not pretentious in SF. I was getting a wee bit overwhelmed with urban fantasy, was losing my patience with epic fantasy and wanted my escapism to actually be escapsist. I like my epic fantasy and my SF to be political and have fantastic encounters grounded in real motives. I like exploring the economic and social impact of fantasy resources on standard forms of government and sociological constructs. I also like intersting characters. It's best when they have both. So this is an interesting shelf in terms of the experiment.

I bought Myth Gotten Gains from childhood loyalty. I've been with Skeeve since the beginning. I believe that I would have picked that book up in physical form under any circumstances. Broken was one of the early Kelley Armstrong purchases ( I keep using her full name because Karen Armstrong is also in my personal collection and has much more impact and meaning ) so I probably would have bought that physically as well. But Wizard of Karres I purchased on a business trip because I needed something to read and Flint, Freer and Lackey wrote a piece of serious Fantasy called "The Shadow of the Lion" that I really, really liked a lot. I most likely would have bought this on Kindle if it were available, and there's a book that preceedes it that I don't have that is still not available on Kindle or iBooks. So I'll wait until it is. It was good but not as good as the books in their "Heirs of Alexandria" series. I don't need to have it physically. Druid's Sword is part of the "Troy Game Series" I will most likely Kindle it's continuation and buy a used copy to finish the series on the shelf. That is more along the lines of the non-fluffy fantasy I enjoy.

And then there is the Paul Parks- A Princess of Romania and it's associated books. If I had read them as an adolescent I have no idea how I would have reacted. The series never explored the areas I really wanted to see but was still good. The work made me think, made me want to know more, the writing had depth, the character had flaws not quirks. When I read it it made me want to write, because I thought the ideas that weren't explored were interesting enough for me to explore them on a story of my own. I am still not ready to write fiction though, even for myself. I will read Paul Parks now on his name alone, not because he was brilliant (although he was very, very good) but because I followed along with him even when I didn't agree with where he was going. There is something compelling in his work. I don't know if I would read him electronically though, I am glad I have these books physically, the fourth one was in the Stack by the Window. Which leads to my problem with series. I have 3 paperback and 1 hardcover because I couldn't stand to wait a year to find out how it resolved. And I had both a discount and a coupon. How will I shelve the complete series?

Immortal Poems I've had since I was a member of the National Forensic League in High School. I still reference it often. Poems still feel like they should be on paper, perhaps because they are such ephemeral snippets in the the first place I like them solid.

Section 5.5 - the tiny shelf -

Remember that this bookshelf is really a DVD media shelf where I rearranged the heights to accomodate books. When I finished I had a narrow shelf left and rather than declare it "extra" I laid a few books across it horizontally. If I use this solution for larger scale book storage I will do the same thing. Of course I did happen to notice that it's perfectly sized for poppets to hang about.

What if : The World's Foremost Historians Imagine What Might Have Been - Audio Books

Fragile Things is one of the first post-poppet Gaiman books purchased after getting about halfway through Sandman. If I remember correctly it's because he has one of his stories inspired by Lisa's work in it.

Section 6 - The Bottom Shelf

The first two, Fortune's Fool and Demon's Are Forever would certainly have been e-book purchases. MegaTokyo and Venus vs Virus are manga. Tamison I bought directly from Connor, Peter S. Beagle's manager. Probably all of the books on this shelf other than those two would still be here. Audition is a reference book. The Ordination of Women is the actual arguments and Responsa which are formal legal religious rulings used in the Conservative and Orthodox movements, which is why it's edited instead of" written by". The documents that led to the ordination of women are in this book. Blu Greenberg is a feminist Modern Orthodox woman who is definately one of the people I use as a role model in much of life, not just religion. I wouldn't have looked at manga on the Kindle but I think I might like it on the iPad, however there is a kind of aesthetic to having an entire series of manga lined up on a shelf. Like the way encyclopedias used to give definition to a bookshelf. I wonder how strong the lure of print is for me and manga?

Section 7 - The Number of Books in the Bedroom

56 books were comfortablly stored on the DVD Shelves plus the 30 that are in the Stack by the Window and the 16 Books that Became Decor. So far the tour of my bedroom has delivered up 102 physical books not counting what's on my iPad Kindle. And we're not done yet there's still The Stack at the Side of the Hidden Bookshelf and The Books I Still Have To Read waiting for their moments in the sun.

I'm thinking of doing a count of the books and magazines by The Perfectly Normal Husband's Nightable. Just to get the count. Knowing that we stopped buying physical books for space and economic reasons a while ago. How many books do we really have waiting because we're stalled?

Next up will be The Stack of Books at the Side of the Hidden Bookshelf.