Rant, and the power of chaos
why I've given up on having an organized library
You cannot write a single line w/out a cosmology a cosmogony laid out, before all eyes
I have always owned more books than I could conceivably read. Every move has had me carting boxes of books up and down stairs, many of them in genres or topics I’m not even interested in anymore. I have bookshelves in almost every room of my house including the basement where I keep the books I can’t quite bring myself to part with but don’t want to admit to owning either. Nobody goes into my basement but family and they already know my various phases and foibles. Sometimes I go through them, a kind of archeological expedition, excavating carefully through layers of interests and passions. Some phases really do pass forever and those get donated. And then there are the books I don’t want other people to read either, so they don’t even sit on shelves. They just get kept in boxes of shame and I wonder what my grandkids will think when I’m gone and the kids have to go through my things. Why did grandma have THESE books? Why did she keep them in a box? Under the stairs? With these symbols etched into the packing tape?
I’ll be so mysterious.
there is no part of yourself you can separate out saying, this is memory, this is sensation this is the workd I care about, this is how I make a living
Years ago I read an essay by Umberto Eco in defence of his personal library, there are also a lot of essays making reference to it in defence of their own libraries. Eco apparently has a personal library of some 30,000 books and wow. People have asked him, just like they have asked me, how many of these books have you read? Which completely misses the point of a personal library.
every man / every woman carries a firmanent inside & the stars in it are not the stars in the sky w/out imagination there is no memory w/out imagination there is no sensation w/out imagination there is no will, desire
Some people take a utilitarian view of books. In fact, I know people who with a very few exceptions don’t even buy books. They just take them out of the library and then give them back which is fine. I love libraries. I take books out too, mostly audio books for road trips or walking the dogs. I don’t tend to buy audio books because I don’t usually return to them the way I do to print books. I’m discovering the benefits of e-books, particularly the ability to search for a word when you want a particular quote. Indexes don’t always catalogue the things I think are important. Or the things that become important. But I still need paper books.
Which brings me back the the defence of a personal library that far exceeds your capacity to read it all because that completely misses the point of a personal library. But not just having a personal library, having a disorganized mess of a personal library. Because there’s lots of essays out there about why it’s great to have a personal library, but libraries should be a mess and this is why.
history is a living weapon in yr hand & you have imagined it, it is thus that you "find out for yourself" history is the dream of what can be, it is the relation between things in a continuum of imagination what you find out for yourself is what you select out of an infinite sea of possibility no one can inhabit yr world
Ever since we moved into this house my library has been a mess. It’s been a combination of piles and shelves and piles on shelves and those invisible shelves that hang on your wall and make it look like you have a floating pile of books. Then one day I got it into my head to organize my books. What a mistake. In my defence it came after I spent 30 minutes looking for a book. So pulled them all off their shelves and sorted them according to themes that made sense to me: fiction, history, organizing, memoirs, poetry, politics, theology. And boy do I have regrets, not only because some books are hard to categorize even in these broad themes, but because it hardly takes any time at all to find books now.
That might sound strange, but remember. This is a substack about putting books in conversation with each other. These are essays about what a piece of fiction might have to say about a book on political organizing, or what a collection of essays could evoke in a book of history. It’s about those collisions and if I’m just going straight to the book that I want, what about the ones I hadn’t thought of or haven’t read yet?
yet it is not lonely, the ground of imagination is fearlessness discourse is video tape of a movie of a shadow play but the puppets are in yr hand your counters in a mulitdimensional chess which is divination & strategy
Eco talks about the knowledge that seeps into you just by moving your books around, just by handling them and he’s right. Not because you somehow absorb things like when I used to put my mathbook under my pillow just in case even though I didn’t really believe it but maybe. Because you flip through it, because something somebody else highlighted catches your eye, which is a great thing about used books. Mark them up, annotate them. I love seeing what was important to you random stranger who owned the book before I did. So you don’t fully read the book, but the title made you think, and the blurbs on the back piqued your interest and then when you’re writing an essay about relationships you inherit you remember the phrasing of a blurb and you go looking for that book and even so, even so you come across another and you wind up finding something you didn’t even know you were looking for.
the war that matters is the war against the imagination all other wars are subsumbed in it the ultimate famine is the starvation of the imagination
Those connections. I lost those connections when I organized my library. When the poetry was strewn through the fiction and history and political organizing because they were all a jumble and so I while looking for something about political history I picked up Diane Di Prima’s Pieces of Song and let myself be distracted by Rant and remembered that
it is death to be sure, but the undead seek to inhabit someone else’s world
the ultimate claustophobia is the syllogism the ultimate claustrophia is “it all adds up” nothing adds up & nothing stands in for anything else
THE ONLY WAR THAT MATTERS IS THE WAR AGAINST THE IMAGINATION THE ONLY WAR THAT MATTERS IS THE WAR AGAINST THE IMAGINATION THE ONLY WAR THAT MATTERS IS THE WAR AGAINST THE IMAGINATION
ALL OTHER WARS ARE SUBSUMED IN IT
There is no way out of the spiritual battle There is no way you can avoid taking sides There is no way you can not have a poetics no matter what you do: plumber baker, teacher
I don’t go looking for poetry. It’s probably the one genre of writing that I don’t go looking for. So I need to happen across it on my way to something else, somewhere else, and be reminded that there is no way I cannot have a poetics. That even in death, the undead still seek to inhabit worlds that I can follow them to, listen to them through. To rant and search and pull me towards shards of light. My library has become a utilitarian place where I get the books I want and then put them back. Where collisions are less frequent and I’ve taken to Twitter polls to find out what books I should put together because my bookcase doesn’t do that for me anymore.
But it’s ok. Because as I pull books out and put them back the chaos is returning. Sometimes I don’t put them back where they belong. Sometimes I put book about history beside organizing in the hopes that they learn from each other. Or maybe that particular work of fiction seems more like poetry, or just those colours on the jackets don’t look quite right together and they need somebody in between to mediate between those shades, and maybe I’ll let Baldwin throw some shade where it needs to be thrown.
There is no way out of the spiritual battle the war is the war against the imagination you can't sign up as a conscientious objector the war of the worlds hangs here, right now, in the balance it is a war for this world, to keep it a vale of soul-making the taste in all our mouths is the taste of our power and it is bitter as death bring yr self home, enter the gates the guy at the gate w/the flaming sword is yrself the war is the war for the human imagination and no one can fight it but you / & no one can fight it for you