I guess nagging works, because Josh started culling his books last week. It's hasn't been so bad. Really, all he's doing is organizing them, and there are so many duplicates and obvious discards that without even trying very hard, he has managed to get rid of 20 or so. And that's after only having gone through two shelves! Now we only have to do the books in the five shelves left in that room, plus another five shelves scattered around the house, plus the several stacks on the floor and finally the books that are still in their thrift store "THANK YOU" bags.
We talked before about how he was going to organize them and came to no conclusions, but as soon as we started going through them, natural categories emerged. Most of them will just be arranged alphabetically by author, but he also has a lot that are edited, like poetry and short story collections. Then there are a lot of reference books, textbooks, and antique books, which will have their own sections.
I recently did my own reorganization recently, so I was full of helpful advice, which was immediately rejected. While Josh and I both have standard-issue human brains, his is apparently a different model. In terms of organizing, we have drastically different approaches, and while his is absurd and wrong and, worst of all, inefficient, I backed off and let him design his own library his own way. We also talked about how he would decide which books to keep and which to toss (by toss, I mean take to the used book store for credit). My own criteria was based on whether or not I would ever actually read the book. After all, the point of a book is to read it, and if it is not going to get read, it is not fulfilling its book destiny, so I should pass it on to someone who will read it. Josh listened to me politely as I talked about book destinies, and then he said that he had two criteria for keeping a book: is it beautiful and is it true? And just so you know, "true" does not mean "factual," no, no, that would be far too objective a thing to measure.
It all sounds like some vague hippie nonsense to me, but again, it's his room. I feel very pleased with myself whenever I hear the awful phrase "man-cave," knowing that my man would rather have a library. And I have been pleased to see that whatever test he uses, he mostly gets rid of the ones I consider easy tosses, for instance a coffee table book about gnomes that I was aghast that he brought into the house. As it turns out, it is beautiful, but not true.
There are other books that he keeps and I can't fathom why, and not just because I don't exactly understand how to determine truth and beauty the way he defines it. I guess that's the problem. He doesn't define it, he just experiences it and knows. I questioned keeping A Survey of European Civilization, arguing sensibly that whatever information was inside was likely available on the internet, constantly updated and not taking up space inside the house. He is never going to sit down and read this book, so on the day that he decided he wanted to know more about the topic, he could bring up the ol' googler and learn to his heart's content. His response was to read a random paragraph to himself and then start talking about what he'd read, plus all the other things he thought of because of it. Reading is just a way to spark his brain, as if everything he inputs is merely a springboard for his imagination. And I wanted to crack open his head at that moment, not just because he doesn't make any dang sense, but also because it sounds CRAZY in there, and I kinda wanted to see it.
It's all very well and good for a practical and straight-forward woman like myself to fall in love with a poet and dream about our lovely curly-haired babies who will take on the world by using both halves of their brains. But when it comes to the daily business of living with a poet, it turns out that some people are poets because their brains look like Dali paintings inside. How he ever finds anything in there, I'll never know. But I do love that man, and something about the way he judges books makes me feel beautiful and true by having passed his test.