Thursday, October 1, 2009


October 1, 2009

You may have noticed that I finished my volume of Lord Peter short stories last week and have added one of the books I got from Elaine for my birthday to my WeRead list: Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman (NOTE: this book is not about people who used to be born between September 23 and October 22; SECOND NOTE: Do you have to get a surgery in Sweden to have your astrological sign changed?). I also continue to slog through the plotting and murders of I, Claudius and the rip-roaring, laugh-a-minute Closing of the Western Mind.

The first paragraph of
Ex Libris begins:

"A few months ago, my husband and I decided to mix our books together. We had known each other for ten years, lived together for six, been married for five. . . .[we had mingled most of our possessions] But our libraries had remained separate, mine mostly at at the north end of our loft, his at the south."

I chuckled to myself as I read the idiosyncrasy of this, then I stopped mid-chuckle. Uh oh. It's never good to laugh at the black kettle when you are the equally black pot. You see, Walter and I will celebrate our silver wedding anniversary in less than two weeks. Our book collections (which number in the thousands of volumes) remain segregated, just as they have been since before we married. Ack!

I promise I did not intend to keep them unmerged. Had I the time and space to consider an appropriate schema, I would interlard them in an instant. That's what we did with our record collection almost immediately when we returned from our honeymoon. Never mind that one of us had 200+ LPs and the other had two. Willie Nelson's Pretty Paper snuggled right into the holiday section and Lawrence Welk has always insisted on occupying a space of his own.

Thinking about merging books and music led me down memory lane. Like quite a few people my age, I got sucked into the bold promises of the Columbia Music Club, which you may recall promised you some unGodly number of albums for a penny, and all the subscriber had to do was by a few more piddling albums at the "club price" and then you could quit, having made a great deal. Also like other kids (was I that irresponsible then?), I almost always forgot to mail the little postcard back in, saying that I didn't want the album of the month.

At some point this created a pretty sorry dilemma for me. I had my rock albums organized alphabetically by artist, my classical albums by chronology, my jazz albums by type (fusion, big band, dixieland, and vocal) and so on, with rock comprising the largest section. Lo and behold, one month my (unordered-but-shipped-nonetheless new record was Barry Manilow's Greatest Hits). The lead-off batter for my alphabetical collection became Mr. Soft Rock himself. I didn't mind a couple of his songs, but did I really want the first cover that anyone saw when they perused my collection to be the one featuring "Copacabana" and "I Write the Songs"?

I could only think of two ways to solve my problem. I could either reorganized the way I kept my collection, but since I had made some pretty conscious decisions about lumping and splitting (this as some of you might recognize is a very personal choice and one's choices about lumping and splitting may underlie and explain why certain couples never combine their book collections. . .do you organize histories by regions, eras, or authors first?), I found it difficult to give up my alphabetic scheme. That led me on a search for an album that would precede Barry Manilow in the alphabet: Aerosmith? Too metal-y. ABBA? Too pop-y. Then I hit on The Alan Parson Project. Drop the "the" and it fell handily in front of Barry Manilow and his nose.

Luckily, over time, and with more disposable income, my collection grew, and Barry Manilow got pushed back further from the front. I eventually decided I could have put him back in the M's all along, thus burying him almost completely.

Ah well, I'm sure none of you have similar little compulsions about the things you collect and organize.

That's almost all for the evening, except to remind you that it is a very lanyard-y weekend. Mazel Tov and thanks to Allie in New York who is lanyarding with her friends tomorrow for her Bat Mitzvah and to the ladies in The Woodlands who have arranged a beading extravaganza for Saturday afternoon and to Kristen Smith's rugby team who will do a little team building, socializing and lanyarding on Sunday afternoon. Robby Bennett will launch Where's the Rabbit at Santa Fe High School on Saturday evening and will have lanyards available and on display made by the Santa Fe Lady Indian soccer team before and after the show.

P.S. When I walked Willie and Teddy down to Willie's Wilderness Wonderland this afternoon to sniff out field mice and bunnies, the trees were filled with cowbirds. I had to keep the experience to myself today. Ten years ago, my mom and I took the two-year old Erin on a walk on a similar day, and my mom (always the Master Naturalist) explained to Erin that cowbirds were not her favorite because, instead of building nests, they put all their energy into laying eggs. They leave their eggs in other birds nests, abandoning them to be raised as foster children. Often the nest-builders babies get squeezed or even booted out of the nest to make room for the cowbird eggs. Erin hated that story and for several years after that would often run through the backyard shooing away the cowbirds that flocked there, saying "Go away you mean old cowboy birds. Moo doesn't want you here." Today she wasn't here to chase them away and my mother was on a trip down to the coast. I had to do all the remembering myself.

P.P.S. Walter said that he can't imagine ANY academic couple that would merge books and that's not all, They've been separated twenty-five years, and they will stay separated another twenty-five years if he has anything to say about it.


  1. Am I to understand that Bubba owned/continues to own a Lawrence Welk album? Had I been aware of this back in high school, I'd have taken steps to correct this grievous error. We did expose him to other things - I promise we did. Just like the rest of us, he lived on a steady diet of KOMA in Oklahoma City at night and KCRS in Midland during the day, along with the occasional Wolfman Jack signal out of Mexico. At some point, he knew that the Lovely Little Lennon Sisters were not Top Forty material. Apparently something went awry....

    Kate (FSHS 1967)

  2. Ooooh Walter, walter, walter...

    and I got roped into that penny a record scheme too!!!... do you remember the little plastic discs for the forty fives?... people make retro-jewelry out of those

  3. I recently used the term "forty fives" to a group of twenty-somethings who work for me. There were many blank looks, and finally one of them said "Ummm - why did you need a gun to listen to music?" Ah - the things they have missed......

  4. Remember, we've seen John J.'s library. Where the books allow him to live there. Oh, you can never have enough books!

  5. At times my method of organizing could be termed archaeological, oldest sinks to the bottom and the most used and newest form the top layer.
    Except for a shelf of naturalist guidebooks, my books and Tony's are separate too. It never even dawned on us that maybe they should be combined.
    I enjoyed the thought of Barry Manilow leading off the LP collection!

  6. Hey!
    I hope you are doing well. I am a CA (RA) for my dorm this year and for one of my programs I would love to try to make Erin's lanyards. What do you think? Could you give me any information I would need to know? Thank you!!!