If I had kept all the books that have rested on shelves where I’ve lived— I’d likely have near 10,000. Maybe more. With each move, the first thing I would do in the new house, apartment or room, would be to find places for the bookcases, unpack the books and put them in order.
When I moved from the efficiency on Morris Street to the Ox, I had more than 40 boxes of books. Each trip up the stairs I wondered what I would have done had I not left so many behind. It had always been a great comfort to me, having my walls lined with books, but something began to change over the next two years. They came to feel like, if not a burden, an anchor holding me in place when I felt a growing need to free myself of Things. I began to weed and cull my library—and by the time I left the Ox, I had maybe 200 books, fewer than I’d had with me since I lived in the garage where I’d set up my pottery almost 40 years ago.
For the past few weeks I’ve been on an obsessive reading binge. Done little else. Reading all day and hours past midnight. I need to take a breather. I have work to do—my art, writing. I looked at the stack of recently finished books—some new, some picked up from bins in front of A-Space. My room is quite small. I don’t even have room for a bed (not that I need or want one, certainly no room for another bookcase, and I feel no desire to hold on to these books—to turn them into possessions. Why not give them away? Return them to the A-Space bins. Leave them on sidewalk for others to find and read? And while I’m at it… go through the books I have—there are some I will never give away, my poetry books, books that are that dear to me, like old friends—sort out those I could leave in the bins at A-Space, or on the sidewalk with a GIVE THEM HOMES! sign.
I picked up Lillith’s Brood, which I’d just finished: three novels in three days. Wrote inside the cover:
This was Goby’s book
… and now it’s yours.
I imagined how a personal library might be, not a permanent, expanding collection—but a place where books might stay only while they were being read, for some… longer, for a few, longer still. A waystation for most.
And that’s what I think I will do.
Maybe that’s what I should do with my art… leave it on the curb with the books.