Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Books (and house renovations and insomniac children)

I didn't realise quite how many books I have until I started sorting through them in preparation for the ongoing house facelift which is turning out to be more like a nose job and a boob job and liposuction plus a lot of nipping and tucking all at the same time but not all of it entirely successful. I came to the conclusion that I had a lot of paperbacks taking up a lot of bookshelf space (that's a lie, they're mostly in cardboard boxes taking up floor space) and that I would never read them again. First of all I took a bundle into work and tried to flog them to colleagues for 2€ a piece (because that's the sort of friend I am) but only sold about half of them. Then I spent ages registering them on Amazon and sold a grand total of one — a very common sense book about helping babies to sleep to a paediatrician in Paris. (Remind me to tell you some time about the numerous failsafe techniques for getting children to sleep that I've tried and that simply do not work. Also remind me to tell you about all of the mundane common-sense advice the paediatrician has given me at a rate of 35€ per ten minutes). Then I tried to sell some on E-bay, also a resounding failure. Eventually, I took them into a second-hand bookstore near the university where the grubby owner bought the lot for a quarter of the price marked on the back — a great deal since some of them had originally been bought at discount prices. I've been back a few times now bearing carrier bags stuffed with novels, but my little bouquiniste is becoming increasingly picky. Recently, he refused "Colorado" by Philippe Labro because the style is too "lisse". He's absolutely right about that one but I often find myself having to defend the books I'm trying to offload, until in the end I persaude even myself that it's really an excellent piece of litererature and wonder why I decided to get rid of it in the first place. And of course as I'm walking out the door with the cash in my pocket, I always catch sight of a really interesting book and have to go back and buy it which rather defeats the whole point of the exercise. (Yesterday it was Foucault's "Les Mots et les Choses")
I suppose I could always just bin the books I don't want. It had never occured to me that this was a possibility until I read Helene Hanff's "84 Charing Cross Road" in which she declares that there is absolutely no reason to be sentimental about books and treat them like sacred objects. She gaily turfs them out with the New York garbage. Now if only I could find the the dust-covered box that contains the book, I could give you the exact quote.

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1 comment:

Bee said...

Leslie, I was giggling at every paragraph, recognizing myself in every word you wrote about insomniac children and books. Well, I have never sold mine, guess you must have that Scottish quality to manage to do it, but my husband has often challenged me with: "It's either the books or me" after sleeping on some of them or having to move his papers to accomodate my increasing collection, which as you mention, are sacred objects