I now have behind me the arduous task of self-publishing and promoting my novel The Answer to Your Question, and I finished teaching my on-line course on June 14th. I set myself the deadline of July 1 to start working on my Willie Earle novel again. I’ve signed up for Freedom, the software that blocks you from the Internet for whatever period you choose, and I’m going to try to work every morning for a few hours, without fail. I know how important that is, and how hard it can be to do.
But in the two-week break before I settled down for the long haul of the new novel, I wanted to clean my study. It made me feel crazy; I couldn’t find anything in all the papers and mess that had accumulated on every surface over the past four months. I had a dream: I’d start writing again in a clean, organized office. And at the top of the list of things to do to achieve this goal was to organize my library, getting rid of books I’d never read again, actually clearing some open space on my crammed shelves and hopefully in my crammed mind in the process.
Only God knew when I had last cleaned my bookshelves. Over the years, I’d accumulated so many books that I could no longer arrange them vertically, but was stacking them horizontally helter-skelter on the shelves. They were in no order, so that whenever I needed to find a book, I had to look through them all. Not to mention the dust! I needed to take out every book, decide whether to keep it or not, wipe the shelves with Fantastic, and group the books so that I could actually find what I was looking for. It seemed a daunting task, and indeed it was: not only the physical labor of it, but what turned out to be a rather intense trip through the past. Cleaning my bookshelves involved an unexpected review of my life, at least my reading and writing life, which to a large extent has been my life.
I decided to start easy. I have three wall shelves on the right side of my study, which hold my books on writing and publishing. I started with the top shelf. Piece o’cake! I dropped Jeff Herman’s 2006 Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents and The 2007 Guide to Literary Agents into one of the several liquor store boxes I had for the rejects. But next I was confronted with three ancient tomes from my graduate school days in the Stanford Writing program, in the early 70s, proving, I suppose, what an ancient tome I am myself: Wayne Booth’s The Rhetoric of Fiction; Bernard DeVoto’s The World of Fiction; and Percy Lubbock’s The Craft of Fiction. These three volumes, yellowed with age, had the unpleasant, nose-itching odor of dead books; I knew I’d never look at them again. Did anyone even read them anymore?
I opened The World of Fiction at random: Continue reading “Paulette (Tries to) Thin Out Her Books: Part I”