Bücherdammerung

By: | Post date: May 5, 2009 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Personal
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This should have been more traumatic than it was, but: Saturday I was at my parents’, sorting through my books that had ended up over the years in boxes in their garage, to determine what would stay (and go to my place), and what would be dispensed with.

It should have been more traumatic, but these were books that I had not seen in years, and had grown unaccustomed to. Even though the books from my childhood, in particular, were what reared me. So farewell, my 1977 World Book Encyclopaedia, which my parents would allow me to access one paper-wrapped volume at a time over the next six years; you taught me the world, but that was several ages before Google and Wikipedia. (I don’t think a thirty year old encyclopaedia gets to fare very well at all; but I’m not dwelling on that.) Farewell, Greek children’s book retellings of Swift and Defoe; I never got to know Gulliver and Crusoe in the original Georgian English, and I doubt I will now. Farewell, Asimov paperbacks: you introduced me to sci-fi, and eventually made me turn my back on fiction entirely. You graced me with projecting into the future before the impending Singularity made all projection pointless. Somewhat less of a farewell to the old transformational grammar textbooks I picked up, thinking one day I Must Really Get this whole Chomsky thing: it’s not my dayjob, it’s not even my ongoing side interest, I’m not going to read the 1968 exegeses of the theories. And I’ll Google it if I ever do need to. Not everything good is online enough, but there’ll be no shortage of the East Coast linguistic mainstream online.

It should have been more traumatic, and I was pretty snippy during the whole process, but I still kept more than I discarded, and not all of it because I was going to keep reading it. The Shakespeare paperbacks are safe for the moment. The old Calculus textbook I first learned maths from—old enough to contain learnèd doggerel and allusions to the Jacobite rebellion—stays. Not a jot of anything in Esperanto is touched: it’s been over a decade since I’ve had anything to do with Esperanto, but I’ve ended up a kind of custodian to Frank Banham’s Nachlass, and I’m holding on to it. (Frank Banham was the long-time editor of La Rondo/The Australian Esperantist—now Esperanto Sub La Suda Kruco; not much on Banham online, but here’s a PDF of the first issue he put out in 1940.) Same goes for Mark Durie’s sort-of Nachlass, left outside his office door when he left linguistics for the Church. (They include his Indo-European linguistics assignments, from back when one learned historical linguistics as an undergrad via Lithuanian. As opposed to now, when one doesn’t learn historical linguistics as an undergrad at all.)

The books left behind are in a couple of suitcases in the garage, and the books that have made the transition to my place are in stacks in cupboards in the garage—both waiting for when I can afford more shelving. The fact that it’s perpetually too cold to go to the garage to check something when I need to (invariably when blogging at 1 AM) may yet turn out to be an argument for further book rearrangement…

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