My name is Chris. I have been collecting comics since 1983, and reading them since at last 1977. I have been trained as an actor, a radio producer, a graphic designer, a web designer, and, most recently, a librarian. I have been doing graphic design and layout for various comic book related publications for TwoMorrows Publishing since 2001 and am currently the designer for Roy Thomas' Alter Ego. In my main occupation I serve as Digital Resources Librarian at the Flaxman Library at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
So this Saturday I will be done with this phase of the great Summer ’11 Weeding, and there is a big post 0r two in the journey of the last few weeks. But not for this morning. For this morning, a quick reminder of why we do this…
“Books breaking through the (faux) wall downstairs, referencing the “basement stacks” every library has. In this case it’s as if those stacks had been sealed up during some remodel, and are anthropomorphically breaking through, referencing the old library, history, roots, poltergeists… Created for the VIA Advertising Agency, which recently renovated and moved their offices into the old Baxter building, which served as Portland’s public library from 1888 until the 1960s.” (via Boing Boing)
Day One of Weeding 2011: It seems like so much, and yet so little.
Sounds a bit like a parody of a Stephen King novel from 1983. But I took advantage of the relatively free nature of this weekend (no freelance, no visitors, no vacation, beautiful weather) to get started. To clear off the dining room table and start filling it with books to dispose of. And for something that seemed to be so simple at first,this weeding has become more and more difficult as it goes on, especially when I look back at the bookshelves and they still seem to be overflowing.
Intellectually I understand that this should be easy. I’ve made peace with getting rid of a portion of my things. I know from past experiences that I will barely miss these the items that I get rid of; I have had almost no moments of regret from the last few years of culling. I know that if worst comes to worst I can re-acquire things that leave an aching hole in my soul, and that much of the older material will possibly be re-issued in an even better format. And I know the amazing feeling that will come when I walk into a home that, while still full of books, is not aggressively drowning me in four-color art and print.
I think I passed a breaking point last night. Last night I actively hated my library.
Since I decided to get back on the blogging the past week I’ve been trying to figure out what to write. I’ve stop-started several entries, trying to get back to the themes of why I buy things and why I keep them. Or to give you a new photo tour of my current library set-up (which will still come). Or how I plan to get rid of things this time.
Last night I had hoped to spend a little time packing up some Ebay items and then maybe do a little writing. Then I decided to try out this new thing that Amazon has called “Trade-Ins” where they’ll buy your items (books, games, etc) for a small price and give you credit. You get far less then selling them elsewhere, but it seemed like a nice alternative with less stress. Then book after book after book was either not available for trade-in or the price offered was less than a dollar. Suddenly even this method was turning into another dead end.
And that was when the library finally became a massive anchor and dragged my soul to the bottom of the ocean. I was never going to get rid of these books. Not the way I wanted. The way I wanted was to have the world line up outside my door and let me individually hand each person a book that would make them happy and they would thank me while handing me cover price in cash. I need to make as much of a break as possible, and as quickly as possible. When I started this in 2009 I wanted the time to say goodbye to each individual item. That time has passed. I’ve said goodbye when I packed them and unpacked them three times over the past five years. Goodbye.
So I walked away with a decision. Later this month I start the real weeding. I will weed harshly and strongly. I want to empty two to three bookshelves when this is done, maybe more. I will choose a small amount, maybe two small boxes worth, to attempt to sell through channels like Ebay in order to get something resembling a price for them. The rest will go to used bookstores that will pay me very little but take all of them. Anything that isn’t taken will be donated.
And then I’m done. Walk away. And keep any eye out on what is left so that this doesn’t happen again.
We’ll see if I can do this. I don’t 100% trust myself but I know in my heart I’ll feel better.
[This post was also originally written in August of 2010. Things started happening then.]
Another piece to share. British comedian Stewart Lee (brilliant stand-up, director of Jerry Springer: The Opera, interviewer, and comic book fan): “What happens to a man who compulsively collects comics, books, records and CDs? He becomes very good at building shelves…”
The whole thing is worth a read, but here, from the conclusion:
Negotiating my friend Andy’s abandonment of his lifetime of books, and my own deranged tendency to keep everything, as if to prove that I existed, I have set myself a limit to my shelf space– a generous one by the average person’s standards, but a limit nonetheless. Each month I carve out a little more length and unbox a few more treasures. It’s a slow process. But there is a finite point. And the rest must go … But philosophically I remain none the wiser than I did when I first racked my Marvel comics on the wall of my bedroom, aged eight or nine. To paraphrase Larkin: “What are shelves for? Ah, solving that question/brings the priest and the doctor/in their long coats/running over the fields.”
[Well. I wrote this post in August of 2010. Enjoy!]
Another recent find online. “The Ark”, designed by Rintala Eggertsson Architects, was a project for the Victoria & Albert Museum, and is nestled in the stairwell leading to the library the Museum. A two-story, immersive bookcase. Now I know another thing to keep in mind when I build my dream home.
It’s the book store and the library on the second floor, so we wanted to connect those two parts of the museum with a book tower so that you could read the continuity from the stored books to the books that are sold and become eventually a part of every people’s life out there.
The tower is a bookcase in itself, the first thing you meet is the white backside of the books and they don’t reveal themselves until you get to the inside where you get the spine of the book. I think it is important for us to show that architecture is not a mystical thing but it’s about putting one stick on top of the other like every small child does in the beginning of their life.
I’ve tried. I honestly have. I want to say that the process has continued, even though the writing ceased sometime last fall. Since I started this blog in February of last year I’ve had a fairly large promotion at work (at just about the time blogging stopped regularly), started performing improv regularly for money, and started a very positive long term relationship. All of this has meant a year of readjusting and rearranging projects and otherwise. All very good things, which have meant that writing down the thoughts on the inside of my skull has taken a back seat.
But the weeding, the purging, the mental cleaning has continued all along. I’m proud to say that in the last year I’ve cleared out one more bookcase worth of books, started a pull list at my local comic shop (to help control and manage my regular purchases), canceled my eMusic membership, and managed to cut down my month graphic novel purchase to around a fourth of its previous size. Looking at the regular tally of eBay results it appears that since last March I’ve sold just under 2,500 comics, just under 1,000 graphic novels, 28 manga volumes, 75 magazines, and 69 mini-comics (with an additional 70 books sold through Amazon or given away)! While new items have entered into my world during this time, the three empty bookshelves, and partially empty shelves, along with the reduced monthly output feels great!
But I’m not done. Before I move house in October I intend to clear out some more in various aspects (including music). Plus I’ve had interesting conversations with people asking me further about the why of what I am doing, what I want to get out of it, and if any aspects of this process might be a mistake, and that leaves me wanting to write some more to try to understand and explain.
So, as I said, I’m back. For the next month I’m gonna try to post at least twice a week, possibly Sunday and Wednesday, to get going with a bit of regularity. It won’t all be Irv Kupcinet quality columns, but I want to see if I can do this.
It has been a busy five months, and I hope to post a real post in the near future with things I’ve learned, steps I’ve taken, and other important things. But in the meantime, here are a few important links I’ve discovered over the months, mostly through Twitter.
I hate to start a blog entry with a cliché (an action which itself seems like a cliché, or is the cliché to complain about the cliché… anyway) but sometimes it is important to stop and smell the roses. One of the many driving forces behind this massive exercise in reduction, reappraisal, and redefinition has been that there was just too… much… stuff… in my life to actually enjoy it all. More than just feeling overwhelmed by personal possessions; more than being terrified by the cumulative monetary investment; more than being worried that I wouldn’t be able to stop buying things. If the whole point in having these books, these things, was because I derived pleasure from them, than I needed to be able to find the time to have that experience. And when you have a pile of unread books, with more on the way, can you really say that you are.
One of the reasons to stop buying just everything that catches your eye, to limit purchases to things that really matter and that you can take the time to enjoy, is that when something really special comes along it means that much more. Case in point…
In the words of Jon Bongiovi: “Oh, oh. We’re half way there. Oh, oh. Living on a prayer.” They were wise words in the 1980s and they are just as wise today. I started this blog back in February to track my journey of examination and elimination. Now, four months later this blog has seen some more reflection, some bellybutton gazing, some sharing my home with visitors from Comic Book Resources, and lots and lots of photos of books and bookshelves.
The last month has seen fewer blog entries as I have been working over time on the process of actually getting rid of these belongings that I’ve been examining for so long. I first mentioned the great Weed back in earlky March (see “Weeding Round One“) and even after making the decision to get rid of these items, and pulling all those books and comics, I still had to do something with them. So it has been evenings full of photographing and organizing and grouping and describing and listing on Ebay. At first it was incredibly daunting, but luckily I found a piece of software that made my life a little easier. But now I’ve got new auctions going up five nights a week, with anywhere between 60 and 100 listings up at any given time. It’s taking up a lot of my free time in the immediate, but hope to be through the busy period within the next month and have that much more of my life back.
Isn’t this what happens to all the best bloggers: you get a little publicity and suddenly, writer’s block. It happened to J.D. Salinger, it happened to Harper Lee, it happened to Stephen King, and now me: one big success and then, bam!, nothing. Well, my excuse was that over the last two weeks with most of my free time spent working on the grand culling/eBay project (more on that in a post later this weekend); I honestly don’t think that Harper Lee had an excuse that good.
But I did want to share some amazing book collection links that I’ve gathered over the recent history. Some really good “Shelf Porn” entries, the bookshelves of the rich and famous, and an example of what I always imagined my own collection to look like in my head.
As my little photo essay was posted today as this week’s entry in Robot 6‘s “Show Us Your Shelf Porn” series I assume we will have a few new visitors stopping by after following the link in my entry. Welcome, welcome. Always happy to have a few new eyeballs to share my ramblings and images as I work on examining why and how I collect comic books.
The essay on Robot 6 featured all new photos and thoughts, but you can find more of the same here on the blog. To get an introductory taste you can visit my About page or check out my very first entry for a sort of mission statement. If you’d like to see more photos of my library, especially earlier tours before “the great weeding” check out the shelf porn category.
As for me, as it says various places I am a librarian and graphic designer. I currently work during the day as the Digital Resources Librarian at the Flaxman Library at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In the evening I do graphic design for TwoMorrows Publishing, mainly laying out Roy Thomas’ Alter Ego eight times a year. And on the weekend, after a long absence, I do a little improv around the north side of Chicago. I’ve been reading and buying comics for far too long.
I try to do a little writing here once a week and share little things between entries. So feel free to look around, check things out, and start any conversations you may want to. Thanks for coming!
According to the Library of Congress Classification (LCC) system Graphic novels and comic strips are classified in the PN6725-PN6778 range, arranged by the region or country of their creation (not publication) then double-cuttered by main entry (usually author, then title). For more information on "Cataloging Graphic Novels" checkout this presentation by Georgia Perimeter College.