Tag Archives: books

i have (a) disorder

IMG_3528My second book is in a bit of a mess right now as I cobble together the chapters. I was looking through my introduction notes today and kept seeing reference to Huyssen. I realized I needed his book to pull together a point I was trying to make, but somewhere in the back of my mind I thought, I must have read this book or at least looked at it. Being a visual person, I googled it to see the book cover. Definitely familiar. In my mind, I could see the book in my university office, on a high shelf, but knew I had not seen it recently. I read a few reviews online to see if that could help me get what I needed.No, I needed the book. I looked through the titles pushed against the wall on my desk. Not there. I looked on my bookshelf to my right. Not there. Should I buy it online? Then out of the corner of my eye, I could see behind my laptop, just in front of me and within easy reach, a pile of theory books. There it was. Second book down. I have no recollection of bringing it home or putting it there. I think I have (a) disorder. At least for now it’s made its way to the top where I can see it.


my valentine

Yesterday morning I checked into my office to find the most wonderful and coincidental Valentine’s gift from D.. Eight boxes of books arrived in my office from the U.S.     Love.

There are another seven that are MIA and probably fifteen more that need to be sent from home. Unpacking the boxes felt like Christmas, my birthday, the fourth of July… you get the idea. Among the loot were a few much needed texts, some French fiction I haven’t touched in ages but love to have on my shelves, and then the random: a pattern for a crocheted afghan that I’ve started three times and never finished.

D. has said if we move again, the books are not coming with me. I feel like whining, “But I neeeeeeed them for work!” Of course, there is that big building on campus called a …. library.

absence and home


Last week the last three boxes of my books arrived to my new office. I felt immediate joy and reconnection: “at-homeness” with the contents. I lovingly placed the carefully chosen texts onto my barren shelves. They barely made a dent in the void, as I am surrounded by 32 of these beautiful new bookshelves.

Boxes emptied and books put away, melancholy almost immediately ensued. I’m surrounded by space now, here and at home. It feels scary and open but full of possibility and imagination.

The biggest void and absence of home will be over tomorrow morning, though, when D. finally arrives.

desktop update

It may not look any better than before, but it is. The neighboring shelves are emptying out as I continue to box up unused books and put them in storage. The drawer has lost a lot of paperweight in the past few months, and the books that remain, well, they’re going with me one way or another. Guess what else? It isn’t just my stuff on those shelves anymore.

abandoned but holy

A colleague from New Zealand emailed a listserv today looking for the source of a poem by Nicole Brossard. I eagerly lept to work, digging through a box of packed up books and pulled out my 12 volumes of her writing. These works are almost sacred to me – one of them is personally autographed for me by the author. I have combed used bookshops in Montreal and Quebec City looking for pieces of Brossard, and yet, I realized today I’ve read precious little of her writing. That is saying a lot if you consider that Brossard only writes on about 1/3 to 1/2 of each page of her usually short works and that her poetry and novels look strikingly similar. It’s not as though the number of words are getting in my way of reading them. True, she’s difficult to digest, but also true that I think she’s brilliant and love her writing.

What’s standing in the way of my reading of Brossard? Me, of course. I put off reading what I love, I put off watching the movies that I adore, I put off doing tasks that I truly enjoy because I’m saving them for later. Reading feels so indulgent to me that I’ve become quite bad at it … and this is not at all a good relationship for a literature professor to have with books.

Brossard is not the only one languishing for years in boxes waiting to be read. She is joined by Cixous, Derrida, and Sebbar who have written beautifully bound words that accumulate dust on my shelves, waiting for me to reward myself with time to read.

uncertain hoarding moments

Now that our departure is likely delayed for a few months, I’m a bit stalled with the project of this blog. I was at the point of beginning the serious removal of things and sifting through the real items of importance, including books or clothes that I’m not quite sure about. Today, as I started a new research project, I dipped into a packed up box and pulled out two theory books I wasn’t expecting to need. I also have a mental list of items in my campus office that have to come home to help me.

In addition to the physical aspect of hoarding and my current uncertainty, there is the parallel activity of memory hoarding that occurs. I was beginning to feel emotional about experiences that I thought were the “last time for a long time” such as our university’s pathetic bowl game that had me momentarily choked up. This, too, has gently subsided as I float along uncertain about the next few months.

from Elisabeth Fechner, Souvenirs d'Alger

This reminds me of a literary snippet that I cannot immediately locate in which the author, Marie Cardinal, complains (paraphrased in English here), “Had I known this was the last time I would see that beautiful port, and that sun on that sea from that angle, I would have soaked it up and treasured it.” Instead, she felt robbed of that memory because she left her homeland when it was still rather peaceful, fully expecting she would return. Then when (an expected) calamity struck, she was cut off for about twenty years, forced to remember her homeland and painstakingly recreate it in her writing. Cardinal was most definitely a memory hoarder who obsessively rewrote Algeria. I wonder if I might someday nostalgically rewrite my home or if my sense of home is sufficiently destabilized to keep my nostalgia at bay.

libraries of the past

Yesterday we took several boxes and bags full of books, CDs, and DVDs to Hastings and came away with about $140 in cash for objects we no longer intend to keep in front of us. While walking through the store, D. and I had the same sort of impression. “Look at all of these books.” This type of place used to be a haven for me and books were and are precious objects of love. But all of this seemed like an unnecessary remnant of the past. I couldn’t help but imagine all of those books annihilated in the coming years, as everything becomes digitalized.

Of all my hoarding tendencies, collecting books is the worst. I accidentally purchased two copies of the same book from amazon.fr recently – a book no one but me will ever want to read in this part of the United States. I buy books almost compulsively because I need them for my research, I forget to read them, and I refuse to let go of them because I may really need them for my research. No Kindle or iPad can save me, yet. Small French publishing companies are fighting the “good fight” to stay alive and pressing the government to disallow e-books that might put them out of business. Larger companies like FNAC, however, are slowly coming to my rescue, and many Harmattan editions are available digitally.

Still, my books, the physical objects, remain. I am strongly attached to their presence and I refuse to let go. They will comprise the largest part of my moving expenses as I happily accept to sleep on the floor or use a cardboard box as a temporary table. I refuse to live without my personal library.

hoarding in the profession

Part of my career is founded on using authentic resources from other countries. As such, I have spent the last 15 years transporting precious items from one country to another. This isn’t unique to me: most of my colleagues do the same, and many of them bring back trinkets for the rest of us. All these years of compiling treasures and souvenirs adds up. I now have countless little items that are either too valuable to be used or too intrinsically valueless to give away.

This problem resonates with most of my colleagues, but no one really talks about it. I just brought home three bags of Fauchon tea that I have been saving because I cannot easily get more – and it’s probably lost its flavor by now. I have tons of books that I have accumulated from tiny publishing companies during a variety of research trips. They are not available electronically and most libraries will not quickly provide them for me. But now that I’m confronted with moving to another country, I have to consider the value of each book. Will it cost more to move it or to chance forgetting or replacing it.

I posed the question to a colleague on Saturday, “What do you do with all of those beautiful Clairefontaine notebooks that you can only find in Europe?” She responded, “You use them up so you can buy more.”