by Linda Rodriguez
Our regular readers of this blog know that my husband and I are downsizing from the large house where I have lived for 42 years and he for 29 years. This house was packed to the gills with heirloom furniture, china, and other household goods, with my fiber-art supplies, with my grown children's belongings (many car- and truck-loads and still not finished there), but above all, this house was packed with books. I had a comprehensive library when Ben moved in, bringing with him his own comprehensive library—to which we've joyfully added through the years.
Repairmen were always stunned at the quantity of books that greeted them when they entered our house, with bookcases covering walls (and some doors) in every room but the bathroom, but they never saw all the bins and boxes carefully stored in closets, basement, and garage. Certain friends, who shall not be named and shamed because I love them anyway, have described our interior-design style as “used bookstore.”
Paring down our library has been probably one of the hardest tasks of this difficult process we are dealing with right now. It has seemed overwhelming. We've floundered around, clearing a few shelves at a time and setting aside the small percentage of those books that we were keeping, until we had packed a few (25) boxes that we gave to charity, but it barely made a dent. (We are taking 6 tall wooden bookcases to our new, quite small house, and I constantly remind Ben that we can only keep enough books to fit in those bookcases.) We had stacks of books that we intended to take in several loaded car trips to a used bookstore in a university town an hour away. We were starting to feel like we were terrible hoarders or something.
Finally, I messaged an old friend who owns the largest used bookstore in our city. I had not wanted to approach him, since he has been quite publicly unwilling to take large quantities of books, even as gifts, because it has become so difficult to dispose of books anymore. I told him that Ben and I wondered if we could bring a few books by for him to look at, that it was hard to give up some special books and would be easier for us to take if they were going to his bookstore, which plays an active role in our thriving literary scene.
He told me that he would love “the chance to take a crack at your legendary library.” He would come over when we were ready, look the books over, pay us for what he wanted, and haul them back to his store. This left us ecstatic, since it simplified our burden. We would decide on which books we were keeping and pack them. Then, once he had hauled off his lot of books, we would simply send the leftovers to a charity shop.
This weekend's painful task of choosing which books to pack for taking to our new home has thus become less chaotic and overwhelming, and we look at this immense collection of books with a different perspective since our friend afforded it the respect of calling it a legendary library. We have been wading through the mass of books with a lighter heart, admitting what a fine, if wide-ranging and eclectic, collection it is and knowing that the inevitable majority of books that we cannot keep will go to a man and his many literate, intelligent customers who will appreciate an eccentric range of books, such as Lawrence Durrell's classic literary novels The Alexandria Quartet, J.A. Jance's Desert Heat, the correspondence between poets Robert Lowell and Allen Tate, The Perennial Garden, Viktor Frankl's Psychotherapy and Existentialism, Story Plotting Simplified, and C.J. Cherryh's Chanur's Revenge.
Linda Rodriguez's Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, based on her popular workshop, and The World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East, an anthology she co-edited, are her newest books. Every Family Doubt, her fourth mystery novel featuring Cherokee campus police chief, Skeet Bannion, will appear January 17, 2018. Her three earlier Skeet novels—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust, and Every Last Secret—and her books of poetry—Skin Hunger and Heart's Migration—have received critical recognition and awards, such as St. Martin's Press/Malice Domestic Best First Novel, International Latino Book Award, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, Midwest Voices & Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in the anthology, Kansas City Noir, has been optioned for film.
Rodriguez is past chair of the AWP Indigenous Writer’s Caucus, past president of Border Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of International Thriller Writers, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community. Visit her at http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com