Sunday, 23 August 2009

Male & Female Authors, and the Reproduction of Books

I was at Keady earlier this week, picking up supplies to make Pesto and Dill Pickles by the Jar, and I happened to wander by one of the stands selling used books. I was amused and a bit astonished to see that the vendor had divided the books into several sections, one of which was labelled "Male Authors" and one of which was labelled "Female Authors".

I'm darned if I can find the quote, so this is a Quote of the Week without the actual quote, but I'm pretty sure that there was a Victorian writer who advocated keeping works by men and women on separate shelves, for the sake of propriety. I can remember running across mention of this when I was a teenager, and snickering mightily at the thought.

Lately, however, I am not so sure that she wasn't on to something. I mean, where do all these books come from, anyway? Here's my latest theory: I have been letting my books mingle promiscuously, without thought to their subject matter, never mind the sex of their authors. This resulted at first in the arrival of unconsidered stacks, here and there, of leaflets and pamphlets - the charming infants of the book world; I barely noticed them. The next stage after that was when the living room, bathroom and night-table became home to gawky stacks of glossy, floppy, slothful magazines - teenager-hood in printed form, you will all agree. And finally, I got up one day and realized that I was up to my ankles in books pretty much all through the house. Romances, gardening books, and books on Quakerism tend to gather in the bedrooms, though they form cliques and eye each other askance, and giggle. At least the romances do. The books on arts and crafts tend to linger in the basement craft room; oddly, so does the fantasy and science fiction. The cookbooks crowd around my computer desk, peering over my shoulder and giving me advice on cooking. Weightier tomes on geography, history, economics, politics and so forth tend to be loners, but they get around and can be found in just about any room of the house.

I swear, I didn't buy all these books, magazines and pamphlets. They've just been reproducing. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. But I don't know why the book vendor was segregating her books - surely, if you are a book vendor, more books are a good thing?


Meaford said...

I agree about the books.
We had friends who collected books and magazines throughout their very busy working lives. Upon retirement Max & his wife built a sweet little house beside a river in Washington State. All inside exterior walls were book lined shelves floor to ceiling-good insulation he said. He built no interior walls at all instead he used double-sided bookshelves- even in the bathroom. Often in the evenings they would sit at the big picture window that looked out on the river and read to each other for hours and hours- sometimes until the sun came up. Outdoors he built a 2 car garage- not for vehicles-but as “project space”-- half was his dream domain and half was for his adored wife…. He lined the walls again with books and magazines…his side had a lifetime of “Popular Mechanics”, woodcraft, fishing and boat building books…. Crystal’s side was lined with books on gardening, music and art. He said he wanted to actually read all the material they had collected and to build a boat. She also loved to read and her one dream was to learn to play the piano. He was such a treasure…he bought her a grand piano and put it in her side of the garage, then hired a young music student to teach her to play. They lived in the house for more than 15 years. He built his boat but didn’t live long enough to really get to enjoy the river & long hours of fishing as he had hoped. Crystal remained in the wee house reading and playing her piano until she too died. I never found out how far along the shelves they managed to get but we did learn one thing—make the most of each day.

Marnie said...

That was really lovely, JB.

Ferdzy, maybe it's time to have The Talk with your books, about being safe and wearing a dust jacket EVERY TIME.

Ferdzy said...

Thanks JB. Nice story.

Marnie, I think that may be it - I notice many modern books don't have dust jackets, even. Eureka! Yes, I'll have to have a stern talk with them.

Evan said...

Have you tried ? a way to set any unwanted books free

Marnie said...

I found a quotation about keeping male/female authors separate:


Can't find an actual source, though.

Marnie said...

Hmm, I can't seem to give the entire link ... what am I doing wrong? I'll break it into two parts:


Ferdzy said...

Evan, I have heard of the bookcrossing thing, but I haven't done it yet. I admit to taking unwanted books to the used book store... so I can exchange them for more books. But that has nothing to do with how many books I have. Honest.

Marnie, that's about as far as I got too. There are a few references to the idea out there, but no actual quote that I could find.

Joanne said...

Books definitely reproduce. They are like rabbits. Especially cookbooks. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.