Friday, July 4, 2008

Making the cull for the book fair

It's book fair time again, when Wellington's Downtown Community Ministry solicits donations of books for its monster annual book fair (some people call it bookfair, but I think that's an American aberration). (Call 384-7699 and you'll get instructions on where to leave your books if you can, or how to get someone to pick them up if you can't.) Last year we moved house, and had to have a real culling, but it was unfortuantely too soon for the fair, so the DCM missed out. This year we mean to make up for it by thinking long and hard about which books we really, really don't need to live with for the rest of our lives.

But it's always so difficult. Both my husband and I (I like using that regal phrase) grew up in homes without many books. Consequently, both of us regard books in a curious light, in which they take on far more significance than they would normally possess - particularly, perhaps, the ones we acquired years ago when we were first discovering the worlds they opened for us. So we each cling on to different but equally strange selections of battered and often quite undistinguished works which have acquired the numinous status of talismans, and strongly resist any suggestion that we should let them go, regardless of whether we will ever actually be impelled to read them again.

So far this year, my discard pile includes two outdated travel guides to France; a couple of 1950s novels by New Zealand women bought in library sales (which I acquired as rare proof that there were indeed women writing valuable fictions back then, but which, I have now forced myself to acknowledge, will in fact be available in the National Library should I ever need to study them); an overseas vanity press novel which a friend bought from the author to be kind, and passed on to us, but which remains unread; a once useful but now passe (there should be an acute accent there but Word won't put one on) study of the media by an opinionated Australian, Keith Windschuttle; and a solid green and brown paperback, The Waac Story: The Story of the New Zealand Womens' [sic] Army Auxiliary Corps, which I have admitted even my omnivorous passion for women's biography is unlikely to encompass (but which I may nevertheless try to pass on to a historian I think will use it, rather than throwing it to the anonymous and probably uncaring book fair wolves). And that's it. I may manage one or two more, at a pinch.

And then, of course, I will go to the book fair and bring back at least as many more.


  1. You are a GENIUS. The SO and I moved fairly recently and had no time for a proper book-cull before we did. I'd completely forgotten about the DCM book fair! Now I just have to face the prospect of figuring out what to give away ...

  2. Take it from me, she is a genius. And geneii are just about as far away as your local recycling centre. No, I don't mean dreary dump-it-and-run zones; I mean opportunities to share, exchange and (occasionally) barter unused goods for others' unused goods. The book fair is only one example of how we can recycle, painlessly, clutter and stuff (I use the word advisedly)unwanted in One's Household (to use another regal term). Try organising a swap-meet for fabrics, haberdashery and abandoned stitchery projects (I revised the terms and came up with the acronym FASH). We had a wonderful time and, although most fabricoholics (a neologism Elsewoman would no doubt despise) went home with more than they had come with, the creative buzz and inspiration that comes from seeing old yardages with fresh eyes was an overall contribution to social capital as well as, possibly, a more beautiful sartorial and domestic scene. I myself resisted everything except some hand-crocheted items designed (somewhere in Scandinavia) to make lowering one's holland blinds and aesthetic as well as functional procedure. But they will not see the light of day on any holland blind - these babies are going to form a cockade on my hat and a draping feature on an otherwise ordinary winter skirt...

    Second-hand books and pristine yard goods sounds like the perfect recipe for life to me. Go forth: swap!