Anyone else here a book-a-holic? Show of hands?
First of all, I was going to quit all this and I didn’t and I said I wasn’t going to talk about it, and I’m not. But, if it makes anyone feel better, I do have all that sorted out, thanks. So there’s that. Then, about five minutes after that, I hit the wall with the amount of stuff (physical, actual items) I’ve managed to hold onto in these last fifty years, or first fifty years. I decided to open an Etsy shop. Five minutes after that, I came to my senses and realized, that isn’t the answer. I’ll get to that in a minute.So I admit to a moment of floundering here. I shall call it, the very temporary middle age flounder.
I don’t know that I’ll ever be in any danger of becoming a minimalist, but I’ve hit the wall with the stuff. Are you a collector? I’m a collector. Or, I was. Collecting is a very Victorian thing to do. (I’ve also tended to be sentimental.) I’ve often been one to frequent antique shops and thrift stores. You know what happens then, I’ll see some item for a quarter or fifty cents and I’ll think, “That’s so cool. I have to save it.” I have to save it from the dusty thrift store bins where it’s sure to get torn up. I have to save it from any and all who won’t appreciate its unfathomable coolness. It’s historical! I have to save and preserve it for some future generation, or, how will they ever know this stuff happened? This National Geographic from 1981 is from before the first space shuttle flight, that’s important shit, okay. I’ve got to save it! This started when I was eighteen or nineteen, that would be circa 1987/1988, with two items. I found an old Campfire Marshmallow can, the lid was long gone, and a promotional edition, smaller size, likely given as a gift to contributors or advertisers, I know that because I wrote to LIFE Magazine in the early 1990s and they wrote back, of the first ever issue of Life Magazine, circa 1936. I used the Campfire Marshmallow can to hold paper roses, I had to save that magazine. I still have the magazine. Around that same year, I found a stack of LIFE Magazines at the back of an antique shop, stacked up in boxes next to the door, slip-sliding all over the place. Well, they wanted ten bucks a piece for those then. I bought one a week until I had about ten of them. I’m sure there were plenty of other young women in the late 1980’s and early 1990s who were collecting vintage magazines and antique ephemera. Of that original stack, only two remain. But I’ve since collected a few others, and gotten rid of others, and given some as gifts. I ran into a run of the aforementioned vintage National Geographic magazines for a while. My favorites are whenever I find a Time Magazine, or a Newsweek, or a Better Homes and Gardens from the 1970s. I have an 1830 edition of The Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott, it’s 189 years old and it’s crumbling. It’s neat to have, but that’s about it. I also have a 1916 edition of “The Poetical Works of Milton”. You’d think such rareties would be worth a mint these days, but most of them aren’t, or, a um, they’re worth what someone will pay for them. Here’s an example of why, if something was popular or if a lot of people recognized at the time of an event that it was a historical event, then there’s probably a lot of copies out there. Two of the LIFE magazines in my original collection were the issues following the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr, and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, in 1968. I paid ten bucks a piece for them in 1988. Well, everyone saved those, so they’re going for about five bucks each now. I gave my copies to someone, another collector of such, as a gift at some point. But that’s what happens, people of a certain era, culturally, often cue in on the same things, and save the same things, so even if it’s something of considerable age, it might not be that scarce. “The Poetical Works of Milton” are still in print today. National Geographic sells back issues for $12.95. But, I hit the wall with it, all my collecting. And I said, I’m gonna find new homes for some of this stuff on Etsy!
Ahahahaha! And the gods laughed!
I think Etsy is great and I’m constantly trying not to buy things off there because you can find anything on there. Your Easy Bake Over from the 1960’s or 1970s, you can get one on Etsy! If you have the time for it, if you are a crafter, to weigh each item, to take many photographs of it, to research the history of vintage items so that you can get what its worth and/or not be price gouging people/know your market, etc. if you are looking to run an Etsy storefront as a business, I think it’s the greatest thing ever. I’d love to make and sell ephemera packs for crafting, art, scrap-booking, collage art, but, alas, it is too time consuming. I set up my shop to try to whittle down. I ended up with some packing materials (they’ll get used, eventually) and three new books, and a program for an Osmond’s concert, people love the Osmonds!, from 1982, that I grabbed for next to nothing because I was sure I could re-sale it and… well, you get the idea. I ended up with more stuff and quickly realized, I don’t really have the time to make such an endeavor worthwhile.
Not to be morbid, but it has occurred to me recently as well that someday I won’t be around anymore, and there will be all this stuff. Much of it will likely end up in a thrift store, or an antique shop, my stewardship of it completed, the circle of the life of old stuff carrying on then without me. Some of it is going to find its way back into the system of that circle of life before I expire, because like I said, I’ve hit the wall with the stuff. I’ve realized it’s got something to do with having fully arrived at these middle years. I no longer feel like I, personally, have to “save” this stuff. What the internet has given light to is that many, many, people saved the same things or kinds of things, for whatever reasons. Don’t get me wrong, many of the items I’ve collected bring me a great deal of joy and I use them. I read the old magazines and enjoy the vintage ads and nostalgia. But, some of it is just stuff to me, so I’ll put it back into the “system”, donated, some I’ll set aside for gifts or keepsakes, though perhaps the older books will be in nice collector bags, so when they get sorted in the donations they get pulled from the general stuff and put with the special stuff, where other would-be custodians and stewards of history can find it, and save it for a while, because I’ve also realized, that’s how that 1830 copy of The Lady of the Lake is still around.
These are my dictionaries, just the regular ones, not including Medical Dictionaries, or Bible Dictionaries, or what have you. (Got that huge one for 98 cents. Its great for pressing flowers.)
This may seem strange to some but, I’ve heard tell of many a writer who was also a book-a-holic. I think more to the point though was a realization I’ve had about some of the material items we hold onto and that, yes, there are certain things I think we should always keep, that should become those things that remain after us, but some of it is just collecting dust on a shelf and there’s things I’d rather do than dust. (I’m not just talking about books.) I’ve reached a place of wanting to winnow things, to separate the wheat from the chaff, to sort and to keep only what has meaning, or is useful. People get older and it begins to become too much to manage. I’m reminded of my one grandmother’s expansive collection of Tupperware. I have no idea what happened to it all. I’m sure there was a time when she used every bit of it, she had the cake cover thing and the Tupperware cups with lids, and snack cups and you name it. But, I know there came a time when it was just taking up space, when she wasn’t ever going to use certain items again. I don’t want to hang onto things long past their usefulness to me, to us. ( Note: Items that bring you joy or happiness are useful, perhaps the most useful things of all.) I’m also reminded of both of my grandmother’s love of reading, and the hundreds of books they each read and collected. I think it’s begun to feel cumbersome to me, some of it. I took a couple of pictures off the wall in my office and thought “Ahhh. A clear space.” I’ve got books stuffed everywhere right now, on shelves that don’t match anything else in various stages of held together however. I’ve a big plan to disguise them all with the same color paint. Because that’s another thing I’ve realized, form should follow function. I want things to be pleasing to me, at this point in life, but could give a hang whatever that looks like to anyone else for the most part.
Another part of that process has been a realization about my own work, I’ll never be done. You know what they say, you can sleep when you’re dead. Well, you’re not finished until you’re done. And if you’re still breathing, you’re not done. Many of my attitudes have changed, going forward into this next part of life. I can’t quite explain it as yet, it’s feeling new to me. Everything is changed and different. I had a moment of floundering, but I feel like I’ve got my feet under me again. I don’t imagine I won’t ever be a book-a-holic, but I don’t know that I feel like I need to keep quite so many, or that I need to collect quite so many more.
I’m also thinking about my webpage, my blog, as it were, in terms of thinking about the webpages that I enjoy reading now and then. They’re generally that of other writers who regularly share either what’s going on in their lives, what they’ve been up to, as in, “Got the patio finished this week and then wouldn’t you know it, we had a heatwave that killed everything so now I’m back to square one. And the dog ate the one plant the heat didn’t kill.” or they’re sharing what they’ve recently read, watched, listened to, that they thought was cool, whilst also writing their fictional books, and telling readers about that. It is a form of journalising, to some degree. It got me to thinking about the books I’ve read that changed the way I thought about writing, or made me wish I’d written them. So, I’ll probably keep plugging away at this blogging thing too, while I keep writing books.
Spellcheck changed a misspelled “assassinations” to “assignations”. Me, and my stack of dictionaries, didn’t catch it right away. Well, that’s politics for ya.