Sunday, November 19, 2006

Knowledge, the Old Way

Putting off the inevitable doesn't work out too well unless you have the fortune of dying. I was still alive today, so inevitability slapped me upside the head.
Time, space, and the Law of Accumulation all came together in a perfect wave. Today marked the deadline for the slimming of some possessions. My possessions, that is. The kids are coming back to roost for the long Thanksgiving weekend. That meant the books and cd's I'd squirrelled away in their rooms had to be recovered Then, moved up to the loosely-labeled "office" on the third floor. Gravity, that nasty mistress, demanded that most of the printed matter tumble back down to the first floor, nicely arranged in a pyramid of boxes.
My heart was in pain. We had a complete set of the Encylopedia Britannica, from around 1965, that we'd been hauling from apartment to house. They were an entrusted family treasure that my folks had scrimped and svaed for shortly after they came over here from the Old Country. To them, having the Encyclopedia Britannica and the Kirby Vacuum Cleaner were the indications that you had become an American. For me, they were very similar. Both encyclopedias and the Kirby weighed about 600 lbs and were tough to maneuver. The main difference between the Kirby and the Britannicas was that you could spray paint with the former, a feature we never took advantage of. There was an inscription inside the first volume of the Britannica's dedicating all this accumulation of knowledge, respectively, to the Queen of England and to Lyndon Baines Johnson. The pages of the 25 volumes were crsip, not brittle. The burgundy covers were hardly worn from wear.
But no one wanted them. Not a single library. Not even Salvation Army. They all had enough encyclopedias to insulate their basements with or to brick up their firepaces with these tomes. "Besides", they pointed out, "This is all available on the Internet." Oh, such cruel words and expelled with surly lips!
Sadness, indeed, as we took utility knives and cut off the hard covers so that the encyclopedias could at least be recycled. Every once in a while, I peeked out the window to check if the police cruiser had pulled up, lights flashing, to put us under arrest for such a dispicable act.
But no constabulary of the printed word came. When we were dumping the de-nuded volumes into the trunk of the car like cadavers of knowledge, no one showed up to interrogate us. The car's back end sagged noticeably, perhaps in sympathy with how all must sooner or later be recycled. We should have just gone over the edge and had a bumpersticker, Fahrernheit 451: Now that's Good Readin', pasted on the rear bumper.
I clmbed back upstairs to the now orderly office. Five other large boxes of books had accompanied the mauled encyclopedias. They were not to suffer the same fate, at least for a while. Some library still believed in the idea of books and they were more than happy to relieve us of the moral burden.
They said I could even come around on visiting hours M-F 9:00 am until 8:00 pm. I told them I'd be by in a few months. Until then, I'll be doing penance for having expelled the Britannicas from our warm and allegedly welcoming home.

Comments:
A friend of mine works at Oxfam and she says they take any books to sell them. But she also admits most of them cannot be sold and she does suffer for having to watch the ... graveyard for books growing larger day by day...

At least you won't be pressing the Britannicas on your children as a "well meant gift/inheritance" and let them do the throwing away...
 
Alcessa,
Alas, you give me too much credit. I did the sad-eyed puppy in their general direction. They quickly responded with loud growls, letting me know not to tread further down that passing-on-the-books path.
My son did state that he'd be more than happy to "inherit" my cd's though, so at least I know they'll remain in familiar hands.
 
You still deserve the credit (for asking) as anyone knows who has written (or is to write) a post about "well-meant" presents from "well-meaning" relatives...

But I do understand it is difficult to do away with books...
 
"Besides", they pointed out, "This is all available on the Internet."

Right. Except it isn't really, precisely available as we might wish it to be. And? When we really want to read something closely, we tend to print it out.

I gave away about 150 books a few years ago and had a hell of a time with the librarian, a man who clearly disliked both books and people. The rest of the staff was grateful for the donation, which I had called ahead to make sure was wanted and okay.

It's difficult to part with books.
 
Alcessa & Jagosaurus, I recall signing my organ donor card for my driving license. It was much easier to agree to part with those pieces than it has been to part with the books.

External beats internal?
 
External in this case isn't really external. It is a possibility of internalizing things one chooses to, needs to, wants to.

I swore to myself years ago, as a "penniless student" never to sell any books (if I needed money) but such promises can sometimes (after having finished the studies and the real life begins:-) be sacrificed to more pragmatic decisions (like being slightly allergic to dust (mite actually)) or any other.

Encyclopedias are often large, heavy, dusty, cluttery... One may not feel well in their presence so-
 
Sorry for the interruption. My hands were shaking suddenly and there was something watery in my face :-)
 
Hard as that was, in the end, you did the right thing. No-kill shelters do more harm than good. ;-)
 
My mom bought the 1965 set of World Books. Thought we were top kids on the block, too. I remember sitting down and reading through every volume at least once. My brother and I thought the chapter on the human body was uber cool. The World Book had several clear plastic lay-over pages; you started with the skeleton, added a page with so many internal organs, and another page, etc., until you had a fully built model of a male homo sapien. Too cool. (And yes, I did notice it included proper male genitalia!)

A few years ago while shopping at our local library overstock book sale, I purchased a complete set of The Children's Encyclopedia Book of Knowledge - originally published in 1927.

You can't find this stuff on the internet, and I'll be cold in my urn before someone makes me dump these little babies.

The entire perfect set was $10 bucks! What treasure!

And to think, the little old librarian lady helping me box them kept patting me on the shoulder, thinking I had surely been taken like a virgin at a polynesian ritual sacrifice. Ha!
 
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