Dewey Decimal: Seeding Crystals

I ripped out nearly everything in my bookshelves today that wasn’t fiction,and started organizing by Dewey’s classification system. Almost instantly, I got slammed. For one, I have a LOT of 900s (History). For another, I have a fair number of 822.33 and 870 and 880. I also don’t have enough bookshelf space. Still, progress was made.

Did you ever see a sci-fi movie or read a sci-fi/fantasy book where crystals were used as storage media for information? My shelves were gross carbon. Now they are filled with seeds: groups of books on similar subjects, arranged in proper order, to which other books can be attached as needed.

I now have crystalline seeds in the 000s (General), the 100s (Philosophy & Psychology), the 200s (Religion), the 300s (Social Sciences), the 400s (Language & Philology), the 500s (Natural Science), the 600s (Technology & Useful Arts), and the rough outline of the 800s (Literature) done today. I also finished (finished!) the 920s (Biography). The 900s in general will have to wait.

Before, my shelves were packed. That is, they were solid books between solid pine shelves. Now there are gaps and openings… breathing space. Lattices of crystal, if you will, now exist in my bookshelves. To an eye like mine, used to seeing my bookshelf as a solid mass, it seems unnerving. On the other hand, it’s possible 1) to see where there are holes in my knowledge, and 2) see where my knowledge is dense and rich, and 3) see how I can improve the richness of my life.

It’s an interesting experience, organizing a library. It’s equivalent to re-setting all your knowledge, and starting at square one. Yet as books go back onto the shelves, there’s a tremendous pleasure in discovering what you know, what you want to know, what you yearn to know, and how those knowledges are interrelated.

Plus, you get to shelve Gary Ian Hoare right next to Robert Frost (I haven’t found any American poets whose last names begin with G in my library yet; they may be there, but I haven’t located them yet). And that’s rather cool.

3 comments

  1. What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked down the
    streets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon.

    In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit
    supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
    What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night! Aisles
    full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes! — and you,
    Garcia Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?
    I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the
    meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.
    I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops? What price
    bananas? Are you my Angel?
    I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following you, and
    followed in my imagination by the store detective.
    We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary fancy tasting
    artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and never passing the cashier.
    Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in an hour. Which way does your beard point tonight?
    (I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and feel
    absurd.)
    Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees add shade to
    shade, lights out in the houses, we’ll both be lonely.
    Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automobiles in
    driveways, home to our silent cottage?
    Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America did you
    have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank and
    stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe?

    Allen Ginsberg

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