Unpacking of the library has resumed, after an interruption of several months to accommodate the completion of Part One of my novel (about which, more anon), and to do some home rearranging to add bookcase space. I'm now back at it and have unpacked another two shelves of my fiction collection, pictured below, in the course of which some random thoughts and observations arose.
First, I don't think there's another single volume in my collection about which I have as much critical commentary as I do about Ulysses. (Second place goes to The Magic Mountain but it's not even close. Actually, while unpacking I became utterly engrossed with Doctor Faustus, which will probably get a re-read quite soon now.) I have several companions, including the great Hugh Kenner's, as well as a double-CD set of lectures on the novel. I'm sure there are plenty of other books which have a similarly deep well of critical accompaniment, and I suspect it probably says more of my own interest in Ulysses than anything else. Still, no other single title in my library claims so much space in quite the same way.
(Yes, I'm aware that Tony Judt is not a novelist, but there are a few writers I revere who I feel write non-fiction with a novelist's grace, and so I imprecisely include them here.)
Speaking of imprecision, I grappled with another librarian problem when I got to the letter "M" which, incidentally, is the largest stretch of letters so far, taking up nearly five shelves. What to do with the McWriters? I have quite a lot of McEwan and McGahern, and I've always struggled with where to put them. I remember being taught as a child that when alphabetizing names, Mc came before Ma, but that feels antiquated and just plain wrong. Certainly, my iTunes doesn't put McCartney before Marvin Gaye. Nor do I. And so, McEwan follows Markson. My grade school librarian is rolling in her grave.
I also noticed that the large bulk of my Hungarian novelists emerged in this series of letters - Kertesz, Konrad, Marai and Nadas. Absolutely nothing insightful or scientific to note here, just kind of amusing to be swarmed by so many Hungarians at once. (Part Two of my novel is largely set in Budapest, so I suppose I do have Hungary a bit on the brain these days.)
Then came the the question of what to do with my James Bond collection. I have a series of boxed reprints of the original Jonathan Cape editions, which are quite splendid but take up a ton of shelf space. When I first unpacked the "F"s, I was worried about that and so I did not unpack the Flemings, although I admit now that there might have been a bit of snobbery afoot. Seemed odd to place Casino Royale next to A Sentimental Education. But I recently came across the box of reissues and was struck again by how handsome they are, and so I decided to unpack them, along with a few vintage hardcovers, and set them atop the "F" bookcase (the space below long having been filled up). It seemed a suitable compromise:
Finally, I have a whole lot of Nabokov. Which is entirely as it should be. Ondaatje waits in the wings, including my beloved hard cover copy of In the Skin of the Lion. But it's time to begin Part Two, so who knows when the rest of the alphabet will see the light of day?