Sarah Avery (dr_pretentious) wrote,
Sarah Avery

Big Book Purge

I've finally reclaimed my study from the spectral presence of my undead scholarly career. All those volumes of deconstructionist junk I used to throw across the room, and then had to finish reading anyway? I'm hauling them away tomorrow, and if Micawber Books in Princeton won't buy them used, I'll dump them as foundlings in the Murray Hall mailroom. All yours again, O foolish English Department! Farewell, Kristeva. Bite me, Foucault. Kiss my ass, Judith Butler. My bookshelves are still overflowing a little, but it's now possible to walk in my study without tripping on piles of favorites I actually intend ever to read again. Books that actually matter to me are no longer exiled to the floor by virtue of the literary theory tomes having made it onto the shelves first.

And then there's the box of books I liked so much I accidentally bought duplicates over the years. Audre Lorde's good, but I don't need two copies each of Sister Outsider and Zami. And what does anybody need with four different translations of The Epic of Gilgamesh? I halfway know how I ended up with seven different editions of the Aeneid--my mother dumped a whole bunch of her old Latin books into my boxes when I finally cleared my college stuff out of my old childhood bedroom, but why did my mother need four different Aeneids? In the end, even Virgil thought one was too many. Maybe she was hoping for one in which the kickass Carthanginian chick didn't die? As to my conclusion that I needed to keep the four different translations of Ovid's Metamorphoses that I'd somehow accumulated on my own, well, you can never have too much Ovid.

I didn't mean to reorganize the shelves, but it just started happening. At first, I was just trying to put all the novel research together, and all the tutoring stuff together, and all the old dissertation favorites I couldn't quite part with in an out-of-the-way section. Next thing I knew, I had a section for Grad School Books I Can't Bring Myself To Get Rid Of Yet That I Nonetheless Never Want To See Again. Since I'm under five feet tall, all I had to do was carry the stepladder up from the kitchen and put those on the top shelves. No danger I'll pick those up by accident.

The contemporary poetry got into everything, and there was no hope of pulling it all to put it in one place.

Weirdest discovery of the night: my offhand speculation about translating whatever lyric poetry comes out of the Oxyrhynchus papyri turned into a serious plan while I wasn't looking. All the classical lit stuff wanted to be on its own shelves, organized more for translation than research. I didn't even know I had enough books on Sappho to fill a foot of shelf space. My classical background's not really all that strong, but H.D. had a lot less of it than I do now when she launched the Poets' Translations Series in 1915. I remembered enough Greek to catch Anne Carson fudging the line breaks when If Not, Winter came out, and Anne Carson rocks, so maybe I'll produce some Stuff That Doesn't Suck.

In other news, I finally figured out why writing the program descriptions for next year's Writer's Weekend panels is taking so long, and my revelation was one of those Big Moments of Duh. I went into the task thinking, "They're just course descriptions, only for really short courses. I can write a course description in my sleep." Well, not for a course I don't know enough about to teach, I can't. So here I am trying to write a two-line description of a presentation for mystery writers on how to write about crime scenes. I haven't read a mystery novel in 15 years, and so far can claim the good fortune of never having seen a crime scene firsthand. What do I know about adapting novels for film? Less, as it turns out, than the nothing I know about how to write sex scenes, or, for that matter, how to write two-line descriptions of panels on how to write sex scenes. When faced with the fact of my ignorance about the life I want, what do I do? Clean out my bookshelves so I can feel all clever about the life that never suited me. I kept hoping I'd turn up the program from WW2004, since there weren't any panel descriptions to crib from in the 2005 program. Anyhow, the draft's done, and maybe it's just my perfectionism talking. Tomorrow I'll print it all out to read it over one last time for glaring stupidity, and then I'll have no choice but to expose my ignorance. Hey! Look! Over here! Stuff I Don't Know!
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