Thursday, 27 September 2012

Side by Side

Thanks for your comments yesterday - we'll see, it might become a weekly feature til the end of the series, if I have the time and energy...

But, today - back to books!

I'm always intrigued by those arbitrary connections which books make while sat next to each other on shelves.  (There's a great quotation in Carlos Maria Dominquez's The Paper House about this, which I included in my review here.)  For those of us who shelve alphabetically, I mean (and I am always fascinated by the shelving decisions of bibliophiles).  Actually, any shelving system will throw up intriguing, unexpected combinations, unless you actively shelve by genre etc.  This sort of thing wouldn't interest many people, but I think I can guarantee that some of you will be among that minority...(!)  I love the idea that a simple alphabetical system can create clashes or harmonies between authors who might have nothing in common, beyond the first three letters of their surname.  But as the eye wanders along from book to book, one can't help but compare...

I thought I'd share some of the photos I took in Somerset quite a while ago, to show how authors have ended up being curiously appropriate or inappropriate bedfellows...

I love that two of my favourite authors - Ivy Compton-Burnett
and Barbara Comyns - are next to each other.
(Any authors who might divide them?)

It feels appropriate, too, that Elizabeth Cambridge
and Dorothy Canfield should sit alongside each
other - since I discovered both through Persephone.

But - oh dear - Muriel Spark and Nicholas Sparks?
I don't think MS would be very amused...

And can you imagine what Ivy C-B would say to
Jackie Clune and her book about triplets?
(She might get on better with Noel Coward...)
Winifred Watson, Evelyn Waugh, H.G. Wells, Dorothy Whipple,
Antonia White - which of us wouldn't relish that dinner party?

This one just struck me as a maelstrom of bizarre connections.
Thackeray, Trapido, Trefusis, Trillin, Trollope, Twain, Tyler, Undset -
it shows the range of my reading, but it's a little dizzying...
That was fun!

Less relevantly, but because I know some of you will want to see it, here is about half my Virago Modern Classic collection - the ones in Somerset.


I would love to see some snapshots of your bookshelves... if you have any unusual next-door-neighbours, or oddly-fitting ones, do pop a photo up on your blog (if you have one) and put a link in the comments!


34 comments:

  1. I do sort of shelve by genre'....kind of. Now that you made me look I do have some very liberal bios hugging some very conservatives. Oh in this an election year, I wonder if they are hold debates after my head hits the pillows. I may need to spy.

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  2. My most amusing neighboring books are Miss Manners: a guide to excuciatingly correct behaviour, and a book of logic puzzles and a book on geology next to a cookbook. So hopefully all of my ettiquette will be logical and I hope my cooking does not turn out like rocks.

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    1. Geology and cookbooks together is brilliant! Well, I did make rock buns yesterday...

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  3. I'm pretty sure that Susan Hill has something to say about this in "Howard's End is on the Landing" - I'll try to dig out the quotation and take a pic when it's not the middle of the night. She is very sneery about alphabetisers, though. I'm curious as to what I'll find on my shelves ...
    Liz

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    1. She does indeed - in fact, I think she quotes from The Paper House, the same extract, which is what sent me off to read it.

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  4. Do they talk to one another? Do they nudge and wriggle and seek to show off in order to be lifted down from the shelf? Mmm... 'on the shelf', with all its connotations of passive acceptance - of needing an 'Other' to do the selecting.. poor little books, sitting shyly at the side of the room - waiting for Mr Darcy to ask them to dance!
    Hush! Was that a whisper? A chuckle? A sneer? Try linking authors to those three characteristics - and maybe choose a suitable dance for them! Now that's a puzzle for your coffee break:
    whisper:
    chuckle:
    sneer:
    Author, title and dance!

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    1. Goodness! Well, I'll be thinking about that...

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  5. My books in Oxford are shelved by colour, something that infuriates a lot of people but gives me a great deal of pleasure. Apart from that I have no shelving system at all, and all my books in France are completely higgledy piggledy, which doesn't bother me at all, I'm afraid.

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    1. I think one day I'll have mine less formal, maybe even by colour, but while I need my parents to find things to send to me, they'll stay alphabetical! (And I am a librarian, after all.)

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  6. I shelve alphabetically in fiction, biography (subject of) and non-fiction for most of my books. Then my reference section is by subject - so all history books together etc. Then there is the spare room, where everything is completely muddled up.

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    1. Ha! The spare room in every sense...

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  7. Thinking of the side-by-side authors on my shelves as dinner party guests is going to add a whole new dimension of fun to browsing, Simon. My Persephone and Virago titles are together but after that it's wherever a book fits, shameful really considering I work in a library.

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    1. That is shameful, Darlene! ;) but does offer so much more opportunity for book dinner parties...

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  8. My books started off in sort of genres and then alphabetically but this has gone by the by somewhat as the genre divisions blurred. Then there is the problem of wanting all one's Viragos shelved together but what to do about the books by an author which are split between two publishers?? It's all a bit random but since I had a tidy up I can at least find things a bit more.

    I love seeing other people's bookshelves - either in pictures or reality. First time I go into someone's house it's their bookshelves I'm drawn to.

    Will try and post some of mine!

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    1. I have split authors, in order to have VMC and Persephone separate - which is a bit painful, but I decided it was worth it. I had the orange Penguins separate too, but realised that I preferred them intermingled...

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  9. Delicious conversation piece, Simon.

    I shelve by type, then topic, then author. Roughly.

    Thus, the Middlebrow BTW authors, War Books (subdivided by WWI, WWII, Post-War) Books about Books (e.g., All the Books of my Life, Ex Libris,) Memoirs and Bios, etc etc.

    In answer to your wondering about publishers, Kaggsy (may I call you Kaggsy?) the Persephones are mixed in with all the others and seem to feel quite at home there, and frankly (perhaps heretically) I don't care for the walls of grey they make at other people's blogs. Rather dull, I'm afraid.

    And since you asked for photos, Simon, here is a picture of my DES collection:
    http://www.dalyght.ca/DEStevenson/dalyghtdesbooks.html

    (since taking that picture, I've mixed up the coloureds and the whites, like my laundry)

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    1. p.s. by War books, I mean the Home Front, of course.

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    2. You may indeed!

      Alas, I don't yet have enough Persephones to create a wall of grey - it's my Viragos that caused all the trouble, so much so that I have kept some authors e.g. Elizabeth Taylor, Rosamond Lehmann, Muriel Spark separate so that their variety of spines don't mess up the green shelves! I suppose at the end of the day, all that matters is being able to find a book!

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    3. P.S. Your DES collection looks amazing......

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    4. Your DES collection does, indeed, look amazing! Thanks for sharing that.

      I love the sections you have - and I love that I assumed Home Front even before you added that! Birds of a feather...

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  10. My first thought in reading this post was shame that my many book cases are very randomly filled indeed with books being put where they will fit! I would like nothing more than the uninterrupted spare time to get some sort of system to my shelves but I would need about a week home alone to manage that and that's not happening any time soon!

    My second thought was that you are a very lucky person to have copy of Joanna Cannan's High Table which is fiendishly difficult to find at anything less than an exorbitant price.!

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    1. Liz - copies of High Table are going for a penny on Amazon.co.uk, so you should be able to get one pretty easily!

      It must be tricky to get books sorted out if they are in a jumble (although what fun!) - mine have been in alphabetical order since my collection was much smaller, so it's not too difficult to keep it that way.

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    2. Just popped back to say that I thought I would have a check on Amazon as it had been quite a while since I last looked for High Table and lo and behold, there the 1p copies were as you mention!
      One will hopefully (post permitting) be winging its way to me in the next few days - where it will join the legions of books waiting to be sorted into some semblance of order.
      My fingers are now itching to get started....

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    3. Lovely! I haven't read my copy yet - I have to confess to not much liking Princes in the Land, but I'd bought High Table before I read it.

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  11. Great question, Simon, and so nice to read other replies.
    I used to have my books in strict alphabetical order, but sometimes I had to re-arange seix shelves, to put a book in the right place. So now it is divided by genre or topic (f.e. history, Italy, Russia, biographies, novels, thrillers, fantasy, childrensbooks, etc)
    Within each genre I have the books by author, and if necessary in chronological order. I try to put some authors or books together, if they have something in common.

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    1. When I go home and unpack the boxes of books I've sent home, it's an entire afternoon's job, sorting them out again! Especially since they're double-stacked...

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  12. OK - you wanted pictures - here we go!

    http://kaggsysbookishramblings.wordpress.com/2012/09/27/a-new-volume-plus-bookshelves/

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  13. I started off with my bookshelves in strict alphabetical order, but then I ran out of bookshelf space and new arrivals had to squeeze in where they could. I like the idea of thinking about them as dinner party companions I must say! The colour thing is interesting, I quite like the idea of having separate shelves of Virago and Persephone but it can look beautiful when they're all mixed up too. Looking at the shelf nearest me I see that Muriel Spark has Stevie Smith and Laura Talbot in Virago green on either side and she looks quite dramatic in her orange!

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    1. Those are very good bedfellows for Muriel, I think - much better than Mr. Sparks!

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  14. Lovely post, Simon! Thanks for letting us take a good peek at your Somerset shelves. It's always a treat to get to look at what's on other people's shelves. :)
    I have not got the appropriate pictures to share now, but I can share a link to a post of mine a few months back on this same topic, though.

    http://inkyfoot.wordpress.com/2012/04/28/friday-feature-on-the-company-by-which-our-books-keep/


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  15. It was a lovely post Simon, and I am so impressed with how neat and tidy you are. I would be ashamed to show my messy shelves! I have tried and tried to put my books in alphabetical order, but they never stay that way...

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  16. I so love snooping on others' bookshelves. That was a treat, thanks, Simon! Muriel Spark beside Nicholas Sparks, that's a classic! Made me smile.

    I shelve alphabetically by author, whether read or unread now. I used to separate my unread TBR but I hated seeing so many books unread so I just shelved them in along with the rest. :)

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