I am not a terribly organized person — or perhaps I am, because my organization skills are indeed terrible. Friends of mine pull their hair when they see that my books and CDs follow no particular organizing principle. It doesn’t bother me, though — because my memory is unusual (although not eidetic), I can generally find what I’m looking for in pretty short order. Indeed, the words “Rain Man” are tossed around in my presence with surprising frequency.
In a way, I guess that’s appropriate. Anyone who knows me knows that my interests are pretty eclectic (as I guess befits someone who graduated with an English major and math minor), and my bookshelf reflects that. Still, I suspect some of the books on my shelf would surprise visitors. If anything, this is even more the case since I inherited Dad’s library. Swedenborg sits cheek-by-jowl with Roger Zelazny, and hardback copies of Atlas Shrugged and Mailer’s Deer Park abut one another, as do an Andrew Vachss book and I, Claudius.
Then there’s the autobiographical work from my great-great grandfather, Liberty Dethroned. His account of the Civil War from the losing side apparently fetches around 500 bucks, and Worldcat only lists one copy. I have two, although one’s in really bad shape.
But the one that makes me giggle is the hardbound first edition of Dianetics, the ur-text for Scientology. No, I’m not a Scientologist, nor is anyone in my family. But as I’ve mentioned, I’m the third generation of speculative fiction fans in my family — the Spawn makes four. Apparently my grandfather (and namesake) saw a book from one of the pulp writers he enjoyed, and shelled out a couple of bucks for what he figured would be a new space opera.
My dad (who would have been about seven — this was 1950), told me that his dad brought it home, sat down, and started reading. After about ten minutes, he said, “What is this shit?”, and set the book aside, never to read it again. But he kept the book, as did my dad, and now I have it, which pleases me a great deal.
So, residents of the real or virtual precincts on Mondoville — what books on your shelves would raise a visitor’s eyebrows?