October 25th, 2011 / 12:15 pm

A System?

Couldn’t locate a book today. That made me a tadpole late for class. But I required down sticky/icky low immersion, that Cormac thing, to show a student. Student penned a meth flophouse story. I needed to tell this student, “Get your story grittier. You went so far and you got squeamish. Go further. Get more squeamish. [Here I am making a squeezing hand motion, God knows why.] Boil your stomach in its own rank juices! No disgust in the writer, no disgust in the reader. Something…” Etc. I wanted to show him Suttree, of course, page where Harrogate gets a side job cleaning out a totaled car at a junkyard. Five “boys” were in the car when it was “Run head on by a semi.” Then this:

He propped his feet against one door and gave it a good kick and it fell open. Some kind of globular material hung down over the steering column. He climbed out of the car and bent down to find the heads of the bolts beneath the seats. The carpeting had been rained on and was lightly furred with pale blue mold. Something small and fat and wet with an umbilical looking tail lying there. A sort of slug. He picked it up. A human eye looked up at him from between his thumb and forefinger.”

But I couldn’t find Suttree, damnit. (In the end this was the fault of Matt Bell, Charles Bukowski, and Philip Young—their three books are the same cover hue [brown] as Suttree so I kept grabbing the wrong title.) I knew Suttree was there—I could smell the thing, all that leprous river mud and catfish whiskey breath. For not the first time I gazed googly-eyed at my tumuli of books and thought, “Do I need a system?” I see the practicality of a system, but also the danger. (Oh, all those failed systems) And I see book-piles as thickets and wonder-clumps, not some cultivated shrubbery/statue garden. I like heaps. Slippery heaps of books. But that isn’t going to work. Do you have a system? How do you find a written thing?


  1. JW

      Alphabetical by the author’s last name.

  2. William Owen

      I cringe at the thought of a meth flophouse story. The same way i cringed at every “bathtub full of acid in the middle of the woods” story that came up in my undergrad workshops.

      My noble werewolf stories. Now those were gritty.

  3. bobby

      I have tiers of importance, when it comes to bookshelves. I have one book shelf that’s kind of artsy for books I haven’t read. On the top shelf are books that I know I will really want to read. As you get lower on that bookshelf, I’m kind of acknowledging that I purchased these books but don’t have a sudden urge to read them. 

      I have another bookshelf for books that I like, but realize I probably won’t be re-reading or dipping into any time soon. I consider it a step-son of bookshelves. Books I do not like or could not finish because I did not like them are banned from my apartment. I have two sets of two bookshelves stacked to my ceiling of books that I did like, would like to look at or read again, books that I didn’t finish even though I liked them and think one day I will be able to back to that book and read it, books that I tolerated and feel like I should should give away but cannot because I fear I will find some new relevance in them — the same kind of denial I go through when I tell myself I’m finally going to quit smoking. 

      On my table — the table I write on, the table I watch tv from, eat on, have fallen asleep on — I also have two stacks of books that I enjoy looking at over and over again; Gravity’s Rainbow Companion, Sula, Blood Meridian, Adam Robison and Other Poems, Us, Dear Everybody, Nobody Special, and some others that I cannot remember. 

  4. Leapsloth14

      That’s a pretty sweet system, B.

  5. Anonymous

      My wife moved our books into our new apartment.  I’m pretty sure her system is “put the embarrassing books Russ likes in the room people don’t go in that often”.

  6. Anonymous

      By height. Best post in a long time, lovely prose.

  7. bobby

      I am embarrassed to say that I meant, Normally Special, which I realized shamefully late. 

      Here are the others in my “quick stack”:

      -Of Human Bondage

      -Websters’s Dic and Thesaurus
      -NYT Style Guide (for fun)-The Moviegoer-Necropastoral-Stories in the Worst Way-Ever-Absolom, Absolom!-Lit Terms (used)-The Unscubscriber-The Sound & the Fury-In Persuasion Nation -Sorry I Ruined Your Orgy-Playing in the Dark

  8. Nicky Tiso

      “Every book collection corresponds to two needs that are often also obsessions: the need to hang on to things (books), and the need to keep them in some order.” —Georges Perec in “Thoughts of Sorts / Sorts of Thoughts.” He goes on to examine how no organizational method is consistently sound, how we “waver between the illusion of completion and the abyss of the ungraspable.” At any rate, according to him, chances are that your cook books are in your kitchen, and you at least know where to find those, one would hope!   

  9. Matthewbergin

      I have just moved into a new place. I stack the books on shelves in height order and then methodically rearrange then into a new ‘disordered’ system.

      I am aware that I could just put them on the shelves in a disorderly fashion to begin with, but I am not built this way.

      I am guilty of buying certain books just to have on my shelves but I promise that I will definitely read them one day. You can take my word for this as one of them is the Bible.

  10. NLY

      I just remember where they are.

  11. Craig Ronald Marchinkoski

      chronological by first edition publishing date. that’s a lie. alphabetical by publishing house. that too is a lie. i hide them. 

  12. werdfert

      i organize mine by the temperature at which they burn.