If you tell a story well enough, everybody in it is right there so no one dies. Sherman Alexie
I have always thought that if you tell a story well it will be new and fresh each time it is told and it will be perfect for the listener. I believe that the story is unique for each listener for they bring their own lives to the story which makes hearing the story specifically about that person and that story.
As the months have passed since the fire that consumed our homes and changed our lives we have lived the our story and shared it with readers here. This time the story is perfect for the writer and for the reader.
Today, yet again we worked our the inventory of our books. As it happened we had taken an inventory of our books about 18 months before the fire. Our old house had round log walls that makes it hard to attach bookshelves. We had lots of windows too. The light was wonderful but the places for bookcases were limited on the outside walls of the house. The inside walls were not much easier. Because the house was an open concept the private spaces were very structured with limited ways to organize furniture, including bookshelves. Some rooms were were very small and a bed, a chest of drawers and a chair filled the room. We managed to squeeze in two really large bookshelves and two smaller bookshelves in the den.
In the office and music area we had books and bookshelves perilously balanced just looking for a chance to leap off begging to be read. To save space many of them were lying on their backs stacked and then tightly wedged into the space between the bottom and the top of the shelf. This was a particularly useful method if the books were too thin, or worn, to be able to stand on their own or have a title on their spine. Our music books were like that. Not only did turning them save space, when you wanted to find a Bach rather than a barcarolle, you could just pull out the stack and flip through it top to bottom. If you were brave and thought that the piece you were looking for was near the top of the stack you could balance it between your body and the book shelf. Usually this was fine. Sometimes it was an exercise in using colorful language that echoed the rainbow not some other colors.
We had books in the office and the music area but our largest library was in our bedroom since it was a large room with wall space. In that space we had three 84 inch tall bookshelves and two 72 inch ones all of them wide. They were deep so were packed two books deep. There were also piles of books here and there. Some were larger and more irritating than others. A book pile was classified as irritating when you had to step over it to do something simple like get to your closet to get a shirt. That actually happened. Finally I moved that stack into the corner and propped my full length door mirror balanced on them turned to an angle so it would not smash into the book case that was shoved almost into the corner. The bookcase was almost, but not all the way, in the corner so I could get my closet door open.
“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” C.S. Lewis
The bedroom library was mostly novels. We both like stories that go on forever. We are great fans of trilogies of trilogies. Remembers of Things Past with its 3042 pages is just our speed except it is a little short. Both of us have epic stories from childhood when we set out with a massive reading commitment. Mine was to read all of Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Anton Chekhov. It was the summer between 8th and 9th grade. I made it through a lot of pages but failed at my task even though my mom faithfully took me to the library each week to exchange my books. I suppose my trips because fewer and fewer as the weeks went by. In the end I had to satisfy myself with War and Peace, Anna Karina along with a few dozen short stories and novellas. Nonetheless, as Sherman Alexie said in the quote I opened the post with, with a well told story no one ever dies. Forever those characters stay drifting through the mists of my memory to emerge when called by me, another or by the circumstances in my life. They are stories made perfect for the reader and the characters remain alive.
We had books on shelves in the half bathroom since it was also the utility room and a hall to the porch. There was plenty of air flow and there was space–we still had at least another 3 feet to get to the ceiling.
We had boxes and boxes of books in our garage. When we packed my professional library, which had filled 4, 84 inch bookshelves to free up my University office there were few places to put them. Most were in boxes that I rummaged through after having moved great boxes of plumbing and electrical tools and supplies that had somehow piled up on the book boxes. Then there were the boxes we brought home after my mom died. She taught us to love books and her library, while smaller than ours, was chocked full of wonderful books.
At Christmas 2010 my sister was visiting and asked permission to reorganize the books in our den. Among those was my spirituality book collection part of which included an antiquarian section. Our treasured childhood books were there–the Black Stallion for my spouse and Chery Ames for me. I had a first edition of Steinbeck The Red Pony that my grandfather’s brother gave me. I confess I wanted Old Yeller which was newly published but when I got The Red Pony, in my child’s way I thought, “animals, colors” must be a like. The stories we really different but both are wonderful stories. My sister was right, our books needed to be reorganized as they had migrated all over the house. I suppose with the help of the Old Yeller dog and the red pony our books had migrated around the house while we were fast asleep. My sister organized our travel and language books, our mundane history books, my antiquarian spirituality books, and my cookbooks. There were so many of them the were in the den since they could not fit in the kitchen.
After she left I was filled with determination to organize the rest of our books better even if you had to go to the garage and rummage for them. I did not understand that book arranging was an sweaty exercise. I also learned that you really cannot go up or down stars with very many books since they are slippery. I got a tote and went up and down for a couple of days sorting out books. Because of all the organizing of our books, we had an inventory from about 18 months before the fire. From that inventory we knew we had over 2,000 stories filled with friends that never die.
While we lost our books in the fire we carry the book’s stories within us and the people in the stories will never die.