I have reached crisis point. I can hardly find any space to accommodate new books. Perhaps I should have a one in, one out policy. But that wouldn’t work, since I wouldn’t want to despatch a single volume to oblivion when there’s the remotest chance I may want to look at it again. Perhaps like a Pharaoh with his (her) treasures, I should be buried or cremated with my books. What a bonfire that cremation would be, but we don’t burn books either, so that wouldn’t work. An associated issue with this problem is that my books sit there each reproaching me for not reading them, even if I have read them in the past. ‘Look at me again’ they seem to say.
Some things have a strong sentimental value. A well preserved 1956 edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica was bought by my hard-up parents as an educational resource for their sons. They will have signed up to one of those monthly payment schemes, so by the time I was three they may have had most volumes. 10 to 15 years later, those volumes were regularly consulted for homework. Not quite an Eton education, but I’m happy without that blot on my C.V.
The biggest offender on my shelves is 20 years’ worth of Hansard. These date from the last volume of 1989 through to 2010, the year of my departure from parliament. The first ten years’ worth came from my predecessor, John Gunnell, who for quite some time has clearly had no use for them, since he passed away in 2008. What is the point of keeping these shelf hogging volumes? I’m not sure I have an answer for that, except that perhaps they are a very good physical reminder of a particularity in my life. And at anytime I can consult them to find what written questions were being asked about, e.g. the extent of foot and mouth disease in 1998? I could do this on the internet of course, but it’s not the same. That would be too easy. The whole thing is academic of course, I’m merely making a point.
I am easily sitting on a million pages of information (most of my books are non-fiction). I am satisfied that this wealth does not enhance my wisdom, it rather shall we say intimidates as it sits stored in dusty remonstrance with one’s lackadaisical capacity for sitting at length with something that doesn’t glow in the dark. How long can I go without consulting the electronic oracle? All my books would many times over fit onto one 64GB USB along with every photograph I ever took, all my CDs/DVDs and anything else that the great Suckerberg in the sky would happily digest for later profit spewing purposes.
None of which addresses the key question: where do the new books go? I imagine there’s a climate change metaphor here. In short, we’re fucked. Almost like the typically heroic American teenagers in The Day After Tomorrow in the scene which finds them keeping warm in the New York City Library.