Friday, November 19, 2004

the annual culling

I love looking for books, buying books, reading books, looking at books and collecting books, like Banzai Cat. I just wish Nikki and I had the room for every one we've ever bought, but it simply isn't the case.

Ever since we avid bibliophiles got married, we've lived in small apartments or condo units where space is a premium. Our books used to sprawl all the floor, on top of the surfaces of things, or be double or triple-stacked on the bookshelves.

One day, when we elected to move, we decided that it was time to cull the books. We sat down and developed a method. Each of us would be allowed to keep what he or she wanted if he or she really felt strongly about it - not the author or the series, but the singular book in question itself (this was later eased because of the damned trilogies which inspired such fervent devotion). If any book did not excite either one of us, it simply had to go. The first culling made me sad because in a way I felt it was just...wrong. Throwing away books? Sacrilege!

However, we needed to be practical. So I saved my beloved Marquez, and Nikki saved her beloved Rushdie. We alternated books by author, with the save pile brimming with Guy Gavriel Kay, Tolkien (her choice - I still feel that the epic could have been edited down to 1/3 its size), Eco, Pullman, Salinger, Le Guin, and various odds and ends like the Year's Best Fantasy & Horror series I was determined to complete or die trying.

The culled pile became a small hill of forlorn books whose only fault was not having a powerful advocate at that specific point in time. I remember we used black trashbags and hauled the sorry lot to the dump.

We would repeat this ritual every year or every time we moved, because we are still avid buyers and lovers of books. Every year there are too many to keep, and Nikki has evolved some kind of gauge as to how many times she can reread something and enjoy it. As time passed, I developed my own fierce loyalties and am more than willing to throw away Gaiman's "American Gods" rather than Michael Golding's "Simple Prayers". It used to be that being hardbound was enough to make us keep a book (the expense, the great way it looks on the shelf), but Nikki has developed an aversion to hardcovers because of their sheer weight when being read, so not even that is safe.

Soon, some of our friends discovered what was going on and began to get the discards.

A couple of weeks ago, we began the process again, throwing away the disappointing books headlined by the hardcover of Guy Gavriel Kay's The Last Light of the Sun and Sarah Hoyt's "Ill Met by Moonlight". (I wish I could throw away all the silly Sean Russels but they are under Nikki's aegis, along with the Nix and Powers books - and if I did, she would do something terrible like make my Chabons, spec fic anthologies, Best of Letters to Penthouse and my weird non-fiction books vanish).

I do have a lot I know I have to throw away next year. I just got them from our recent trip to the States but I know where they are destined to go. We still need more bookshelves, and I've even taken to eyeing Sage's bookshelf, where she has her own collection of books, which, in my opinion, need to be culled too.

But the Big Kahuna of those who really need to cull is my best friend. But his heart could never bear the anguish.

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