When author Hunter Liguore saw my bookshelf photograph on a blog post earlier this year she invited me to write a piece about it. So here goes:
This isn’t my only bookshelf, of course, it’s one of many. The back room is chockers with the things, both double and triple banked. When my parents sold the family home, my father gave me this one from his study and I put it on my second desk and filled it with some of the titles that had been accumulating on the table beside my reading chair out back.
A random assortment of things I’ve already read, such as Cloud Atlas, The Men Who Stare at Goats and Grimoire, things I’ve been meaning to read for ages (Weapons of Choice, Brown Girl in the Ring, Tales from the Torrid Zone). Books I borrowed from friends years ago and never got round to reading or returning… oops (The Memory Cathedral, Vernon Little God) and things I have stories in myself (Sprawl, X6).
The bookshelf reminds me of the passage of time. How there’s never enough of it and how, despite how much I love my Kindle, there’s something downright classy about books jammed on a shelf with knickknacks and mementoes jostling with protruding spines for space.
I didn’t set out to impress anyone with this particular collection but I think I might have accidentally impressed myself: David Brin’s The Postman sitting next to John Banville’s The Sea. Michael Marshall and Clive Cussler jammed into a corner. A wadge of Oxford Illustrated Jane Austens inherited from my sister when she moved to London. Nic nac-wise, I’ve recently added a small ceramic TARDIS which used to sit on my computer at work before I quit my job to start my doctorate. Plushie Moomins feature prominently. Anyone who doesn’t like Moomins isn’t worth talking to, IMHO.
At the foot of the solar powered waving Queen Elizabeth sits a favourite souvenir acquired in Florida. It’s what looks to be a business card. One the front, neatly typed in courier caps are two words: STOP TALKING. On the back, Margaret Atwood’s autograph. She taught a class on post-apocalypse literature in Key West this January. On the first day she placed the card in the centre of the table and invited us twelve students to make use of it if we felt the need. Needless to say, none of us were game and from day two onwards, that card vanished from sight. Except that once I’d seen it, I was desperate to souvenir it. I’m a terrible magpie. Little bits and pieces of esoterica not only remind me where I’ve been, they clarify who I am — at least to myself. At a party one night I discussed the problem of the STOP TALKING card with a handful of my new writer buddies. They all agreed that card was very worthy but couldn’t advise as to how I might get my paws on it. In the end, I just asked. Ms Atwood handed it over and very kindly signed the back. And now it sits on my special shelf beside an ornamental ceramic cat perched upon a ceramic slipper, a gift from Rob’s mother Nora.