Ted, who has been blogging since 2007 at Bookeywookey, manages to combine reading, working and writing a dissertation (he's completing his PhD) with the cultural possibilities that living in New York City brings. He writes about such diverse subjects as literature, theatre, film, music and neuroscience with a keen eye and great insight, which comes from experience as he used to direct opera and theatre and taught acting. He lives in a residential part of NYC with his husband, known in his blog posts as the Ragazzo. Perhaps the topics about which he writes aren't really so very different after all since how we think, see and feel must all be interrelated. If you've not yet met Ted, do click on over and check Bookeywookey out. In the meantime you can click on the photos for a closer peek at his bookshelves and some rather towering piles of books!
1. Describe your library/bookshelves. Are the books randomly placed or do you have them organized in a special way?
My library has over 1,000 volumes in it. The many shelves and piles are organized loosely by genre, but not by much else. I have a built-in hutch with poetry, shelves featuring biography, music, theatre, visual art, design, neuroscience, psychology, other science, history, poetry, cookbooks, reference books, and then fiction grouped by fantasy, literary fiction, short fiction, modern fiction, one shelf with books just by Virginia Woolf (and anything on or by other Bloomsburians), Alice Munro, Gertrude Stein, A.S. Byatt (but her sister lives elsewhere), Joan Didion, May Sarton, Penelope Fitzgerald, Dawn Powell, and Iris Murdoch, another shelf that has just Shakespeare, Shaw, Eugene O’Neill, Hesse, Mann, and short fiction anthologies, and then there is a shelf where I have both fiction and non-fiction on the subject of modernism, so all of my Pat Barker novels live there but so do non-fiction works on German expressionism, the Bauhaus movement, and The First Moderns by William Everdell. I don’t alphabetize, I like to have all of an author’s works together but I’m not completely successful in doing that. I know where stuff is by feel. I can see the book. I know the color and shape of it, and I’ll usually be in the right neighborhood, even if I have to look around for a bit.
2. Do you like to weed and recycle as you read or do you prefer to hold on to all your books?
I can’t hold all the books I read, I live in a one-bedroom New York apartment! After I read a book, I make a choice about whether I want it to be a part of my library, whether I will pass it on to someone else, or sell it. My library is in a constant state of flux.
3. Are your books confined to one area or are they spread out over your house?
They are in every room except the bathroom which has no shelving and gets too damp. I have built-in shelves in the kitchen, livingroom, and dining room and free-standing shelves in the bedroom, kitchen, and dining room, a few small piles strategically placed throughout the house, and a massive to-be-read pile by my bed. The Ragazzo says it’s beginning to approach the dimensions of the Great Wall of China but I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration.
4. How long has your oldest unread book sat on your shelves.
A few books on my shelves have reached the status of having them just to have them. I have owned them for maybe 30 years and may never read them but I can’t imagine myself without them. I received JR by William Gaddis as a gift in the early 1980s. I haven’t read it but I have no interest in giving it away either. I keep thinking I will get through Catch 22, and perhaps one day I will. I have a number of books from my grandparents’ library that are in German, which I can’t read at an adult level. I also have a number of their books which I hope to read – Andre Malraux’s diaries, novels by Thomas Mann and Lion Feuchtwanger – but whether I do or not, they are a part of my library because they were my grandparents’. A few on the Great TBR pile have, sadly, been there for maybe six or seven years now. A few of Orlando Figges’s books on Russian history are among them. I really do intend to read them. Honest. I just haven’t combined the right reading mood with remembering that I owned it.
5. What is your most treasured book?
Just one? Oh, I’m sweating. I think it might be The Vakhtangov School of Stage Art by Nikolai Gorchakov. This is an English translation published by the Foreign Languages Publishing House in Moscow. It’s a book by a pupil of Yevgeny Vakhtangov, a great Russian theatre director and teacher, and a pupil of Stanislavsky. Vakhtangov’s approach was probably most influential of my own as a theatre and opera director and acting teacher. This is a used hardcover copy, with its jacket in excellent shape, which I tracked down after a long search, through the Shelly Bookshop in London. This really speaks to the influence of the internet in locating out-of-print books. I can get the stuff I want now much, much faster. I find most books nearly instantaneously and can have them sent in under a week’s time, but do I have the same sense of triumph in locating them? Do I treasure them as much?
6. If you could pick one "lost in the stacks/on your bookshelves" book to rediscover and share with other readers, which would it be?
I went walking around my apartment, glancing at the shelves, thinking about how I might answer this question. I have written about so many of my favorites on my own blog, but I don’t think that I have ever mentioned Mr. Mani by Israeli novelist A.B. Yehoshua. It is about six generations of a Sephardic family, named Mani, and progresses backward in time from the mid-1980s to the 18th century. In each of five sections we are privy to only side of a conversation in which a speaker describes an encounter with a Mr. Mani. So it is both an epic chronicle of a family and a detailed psychological portrait of five story tellers. It’s a wonderful novel that I tried for many years to get produced in a dramatic adaptation. Unfortunately, that’s a project that never came to fruition, but it remains a great read.
Many thanks to Ted for sharing photos of his bookshelves and piles with us. Check back next Friday for a peek into another reader's library.