Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

Pulp Culture
Too many books
and so little
room for them


January 13, 2000
By Franklin Harris

While apartment hunting recently, I discovered something about myself: I have too many books. Too many, that is, to cram into most inexpensive rental properties.

Mind you, the apartment I considered had other serious drawbacks.

First, its front door opened into the bedroom, and I'm not allowing any guests of mine to see my bedroom first thing. Doing so could easily send the wrong impression -- or, in the case of beautiful women, the right impression, which would be just as bad.

Second, the apartment had a two-step drop-off between the living room and the kitchen. I could easily see that architectural defect killing me late some night, especially after a few too many beers -- "a few too many" becoming a smaller number with each passing year. The morning after the accident, my vengeful ghost would find my obituary in the newspaper, and I'd be the idiot who broke his neck stumbling to the kitchen for a couple of Advil.

But that the apartment simply didn't have enough room for my books was its most unpardonable sin.

Since my days at Auburn University, I've collected quite a library. I imagine that when I'm dead, several educational institutions will fight over it, assuming, of course, that I ever write The Great American Novel and become rich and famous, as is my plan.

College students usually don't have money to spend on such nonessentials as furniture. A table for studying (if you're into that sort of thing), a sofa for sleeping off hangovers and something to lift the television up to eye level are all that is necessary. Stereos can sit on the floor if they must.

If you collect a lot of reading material during your college experience, there is only one way to store it: milk crates.

Even now, as in college, I make abundant use of milk crates. Nothing is so convenient as making makeshift bookshelves out of them. They are both cheap and modular. When one is full, you can simply throw another on top of it.

(In fact, while writing this, I noticed how cluttered my books were and popped out to Kmart for four more crates. They barely did the job, but at least I can now pull my Hayao Miyazaki art books off the shelf without causing an avalanche.)

I own only one proper set of bookshelves. It's some faux oak thing I purchased at Wal-Mart when nobody had any crates in stock. Every shelf sags a bit in the middle from the weight I've heaped upon it.

The top shelf of my bedroom closet is full, too. There I keep all of the books I seldom use: leftover political science textbooks from college, things I bought at library yard sales for a dime apiece, gifts from people who hadn't a clue as to my literary tastes.

The proper shelves and the crates are reserved for the good stuff, of which there is a lot.

There are the collected works of H.P. Lovecraft, which are jammed beside several science fiction anthologies, which hold up an essay collection by Gore Vidal, which sometimes slips down behind the economics books by Ludwig von Mises, which are propped against the "Encyclopedia of Beer," which sits next to a book on barbecue (how appropriate!) and so on. Science fiction paperbacks fill every proverbial nook and cranny.

Thankfully, the collected works of Harlan Ellison seem to have stalled with the fourth volume. I have no idea where I'm going to put the others should Ellison ever get around to publishing them.

Meanwhile, my dictionaries and reference books occupy a utility cart near my computer, so that they can make themselves useful when I'm doing things like writing this column.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, when do I have the time to read all these books? Well, of course, I don't. But, as someone once said -- and I'd tell you who if I could find my "Bartlett's" -- who wants a library filled with books you've already read?

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