September 25th, 2007


Out goes he

Someone else on my Flist has been extolling the joys of decluttering and I agree that it is very satisfying. When you’ve lived in a big house for a long time and downsizing looms, there’s an awful lot of stuff to be got rid of and one feels less overwhelmed by it all if a box is got rid of every now and then.

One thing I do every year and more than once is to dispose of hundreds of books. I know this will cause raised eyebrows amongst people happy to live with tottering piles but, see above, I don’t like to feel out of control and I buy more books than I can keep. I’ve been going through the shelves in the hall and am rather shocked by what is a keeper and what a goer. IN stay Adrian Mole and Bridget Jones. OUT go Dostoievsky, Gogol and Turgenev. Admittedly, these are old Penguin Classics with browning pages and small print (print is getting smaller, I swear) but something puritan in me says this must be wrong.

But why? What are books for? Classics will always be available. I think the slightly guilty feeling comes from the idea that one ought to have a library and that means a range of reference books and of the great classics. OK, I’m certainly never parting with Jane Austen, George Eliot or Dickens because who knows when I might just have to read them and NOW. Do I need to keep Greek classic plays and the great Russians (I’m excepting Tolstoy, who stays) in case I want to check something? Or to impress visitors? Huh: the only thing visitors to our house ever want to look at is the juke box. I turned out huge numbers of history books years ago on the grounds that they were out of date and never looked at, but I still felt uneasy about it. I do still have a copy of the Penguin History Tudor England by S T Bindoff. It has my name inside, with ‘VI 1 Arts 11’ and I have a strange sentimental attachment to it.

So the boot of the car fills up regularly with neatly tied up carrier bags full of books for the Oxfam book bank. No doubt a number will be dumped but somebody, somewhere may be pleased to find others. I hope so.