the most excruciating

Forget worries about money, managing a massive drive alone, and transporting the fish without killing him. Forget the looming horror of homelessness. The absolute worst thing about moving, no matter what anyone else may claim, is attempting to winnow out which books are necessary to my daily survival.

Last spring, when I was packing for the doomed Seattle expedition, I was constantly calling my friend E or running up to pound on her door to demand her judgment. “Do I need all of my Faulkner? Even the ones I’ve read? I think I do.” (E: “You absolutely do. Don’t even think about leaving them behind!”) “Camus? Cioran? Sartre? Do I need Sartre?” (E: “If you bring those I’m disowning you as a friend.”) “I just read Pnin but but but I might NEED it! I never go anywhere without it! I have to bring it. But what about Lolita?” (E: “Lolita is so not necessary. Leave it. But bring every other Nabokov that you have — I know how you are about him.”) “I have six different translations of the same Rilke poems. How do I decide??” (E: “Pick two, leave the rest. It’d be nice if the two you bring could be the smallest ones.”) “Shelley or Keats? How can I choose between Shelley and Keats???” (E: “… just bring an anthology. Hey, do you think I’ll get a chance to wear these shoes?”)

This co-dependent packing endeavor wasn’t very successful — by the time we left, my car was so stuffed full of books (mine) and shoes (hers) that we couldn’t even fit our handbags in the back and had to keep them by our feet — but now I miss it and long for E’s quick (if overly generous) responses. I have such a deep emotional attachment to my books that I am useless when it comes to packing them. For every single book that I own I can imagine multiple dire situations in which each one is integral to my survival — and with that sort of mentality, how can anything be left behind? I need an authoritarian supervisor to stand over me and wrest superfluous books from my hands, ’cause I am way too attached to approach this task logically and impartially.


~ by Not Alice on July 29, 2007.

4 Responses to “the most excruciating”

  1. wait a minute, wait a minute. You’re not PURGING books, right? You’re just deciding which to bring with you FOR NOW. Because if you’re leaving some permanently behind, rent a frickin’ trailer and take them ALL. I can see having to decide which to bring on a trip or a temporary move, but I can’t see having to leave most of them behind, never to be retrieved….

  2. No, no purging is taking place — they will all remain nominally mine, and even though my parents’ house is full to breaking with books (seriously — my dad is constantly building new shelves to accommodate the situation) I have two whole rooms that are, and will continue to be, mine for book storage. But this is not exactly a temporary move. Whatever I do after graduation, I hope and plan to never live in my parents’ house again. I would take them all, but I’m going into this situation essentially homeless, with no idea what my living situation will be, and no concept of what I’ll do when I finish school, so I’m packing for the foreseeable and indefinite future. Upon last count (three years ago) I had over eight hundred books. I simply cannot bring them all — it would be the height of frippery. It’s sooo hard to decide which ones I will need for research, which of the unread ones I’ll want to read soon, and which I am just too strongly attached to to leave behind even though I likely will not read them. I cannot leave any of my poetry books behind no matter where I go (I travel with barely any clothes because I stuff my suitcase with books), but those alone take boxes, and leave limited space for everything else. And this time I have my OED to account for…

    So! Difficult!

  3. You and i have similar taste in books. =]

    What about Ginsberg? Kerouac?

  4. I agree with you….I’ve had to part with my books and I’ll never forget the smell of those books, the feel of those pages… was the one of the saddest things….

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