Books of Life and Death II

Just a quick thought as I get to grips on a wet April day with how to set up my shelves (again). Search facilities in things like Google Docs mean that I can keep piles of electronic versions of papers – articles from other people, half-written things of mine, whatever – and expect the computer systems to scurry away and find them for me, like the luckless (and eventually lucky) library assistant in The Tractate Middoth, without encountering some cobwebby presence that will ruin my search.

Not so, of course, in my own study, and I have my own, idiocentric, way of shelving. Theory and practice is one section; liturgy and spirituality is another; well-loved (i.e.fragile and must-have-to-hand) children’s books; outsize; Wild Spaces, Wild Magic texts and critical material. It sort of works until (like today) I try to add and sort and then I find myself faced with questions: does all Alan Garner go together, and why isn’t Susan Cooper there? Where do the versions of Grimm’s Stories go? and if they go there, where does Maria Tatar sit?

There’s also the little game of proximity, as at least one Rob Macfarlane (The Wild Places) rubs shoulders with Gavin Maxwell (Ring of Bright Water) and Alexander Porteous (The Forest in Mythology and Folklore) leans up against Richard Powers The Overstory – but Roland Hutton doesn’t now (in my new planning) sit next to W G Hoskins… These are not truly serendipitous, just my invited guests in the cramped study at the top of the house – but then, I don’t need to offer them refreshments. I do, sometimes, in the quiet of an evening, wonder about whether How Children Learn finds an answer in Homo Ludens, or whether Simon Schama went to the Spellbound exhibition at the Ashmolean, and how much of A Fine Anger there is between Garner and Gawain…