Saturday, March 22, 2008

“I like to think of my bookshelves as an enormous store of potential energy.”

I actually don't feel that way at all about a bookshelf, but it is a quote from this post about one's bookshelves on the NYT blog Paper Cuts that got me thinking about it. For me personally, the books on my nightstand say more about the conflict of who I am vs. how I want to be portrayed.

"Who I am" really is: I use the library.

We have exactly one bookshelf in our house and this is it – a built-in next to the desk, and it serves the function that I suspect most bookshelves do - a resting spot for things that have no other reasonable place. The most literary people I know have bookshelves similarly stacked with junk and have almost never been a place where they run to get some forgotten tome at a moment of frenzied referncing.

Personally, and I know this is heresy to book people who will become engorged over the smell of the page and whatnot, I am ready to go digital with the whole thing, as I have done with music. I manage to listen to more music than anyone I know without utilizing a record player or treating as fetish items the cardboard and plastic in which the information is bound, and I suspect I could do the same thing with books. Don't get me wrong, I like a library or a used book store and rows and rows of spines as much or more than the next guy, but I don't need it.

That said, here is my annotated bookshelf and the potential energy it holds in calories

  1. Top Shelf
    1. Two old broken laptops and one broken external drive (0 calories)
    2. 85% functional clarinet in case (10 calories)
    3. Oversized headphones that I got with a four-track recorder (1 calorie)
    4. Box of blank CD-R's (100 calories – a friend buys me lunch once a month in trade for a mix CD)
    5. Box from iPod (0 Calories)
    6. Two photo books by Rauschenberg (5 calories – they rae in slipcases and you never idly crack open a book with a slipcase)
    7. Laptop power cable for the car (100 calories)
  2. Second-to-top shelf
    1. Stacks of loose CD's (10 calories)
    2. Fluxlist Box No. 1 (10 calories)
    3. Kickass little tube amp for microphone (50 calories, but the complexity of using it keeps it dusty)
    4. Mod Podge (matte and glossy) (75 calories)
    5. Stack of DVD sets (0 Calories – they might as well be old phone books for as often as they are watched)
    6. Small photo albums (50 calories)
    7. Tiny art books, like you get in museum gift shops (100 calories – A friend had a shelf of 100 of these and I considered stealing them one time during a party, I coveted them so much)
    8. Teaching award and cross pen given to me by a student (50 calories)
    9. 5 bottles of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab cologne (50 calories)
    10. Simpsons and Andy Warhol figurines (25 calories – I like them looking back down at me
  3. Middle shelf
    1. Shorter (in height) books
      1. Copies of my books (100 calories)
      2. Mythology books (10 calories)
      3. My Grandma's Bible (1 calorie)
      4. Alchemy and Mysticism: The hermetic Museum by Alexander Roob (50 calories – picture book of alchemical woodcuts that gets my head spinning)
      5. Other books (15 calories)
    2. Incense holder (20 calories)
  4. Second-to-bottom shelf
    1. A couple tallish books no one looks at/thinks about (5 calories) except
    2. Lynda Barry's The Greatest of Marlys (20 calories)
    3. Cormac McCarthy's The Road (currently 100 calories, since I read it a few months ago I still view everything I see through its dark filter. For instance, I did this whole meme just so I could say something about the book)
    4. Stacks of CD's in cases, supposedly my "to review" piles but is actually just a holding cell for processing (30 calories)
    5. Guitar tuner (60 calories)
  5. Bottom shelf
    1. Art Books (10-45 calories depending on my appetites)
    2. Two instructor manuals for one of my classes (5 calories – they could be replaced by a succinct outline rather easily)
    3. Ream of blank printer paper (200 calories – perhaps the only thing more directly useful than the guitar tuner)
    4. Copies of The Wire and Oxford American that contain my articles, ostensibly awaiting framing (50 calories)

Equalling a grand total of 1320 calories of potential energy, equaling roughly that of one Tony's frozen pizza.

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