The complexity of the human heart can be expressed in the arrangement of one’s books.
By Leslie Kendall Dye, June 19, 2022, 7 AM ET
My father loved books more than anything else in the world. He owned about 11,000 of them at the time of his death, in March of 2021, at 83 years old.
There were books in his living room and bedroom, books in the hallways and closets and kitchen. Sometimes I stop in the center of my own home like a bird arrested in flight, entranced by the books that line my walls. I live in a small Manhattan apartment, and I, too, have books in the living room, the bedroom, the hallway, the closets.
Often, I stare at them because I’m puzzling over their geography. I wonder if I’ve placed any book in the wrong spot, according to an emotional map I’ve made of my bookshelves. As I gaze at the titles, the associations come tumbling out.
Tennessee Williams’s Memoirs is next to a biography of Patrick Dennis called Uncle Mame, because Williams and Dennis had many things in common: Pathos. Cruel fathers. Spectacular female characters. A Dictionary of Yiddish Slang & Idioms is next to Heartburn because, however secular Nora Ephron was, her humor comes from deep within her Jewishness.
The Lord of the Rings is between Time and Again and Rosemary’s Baby because I like how they form a triumvirate of fantasy stories that have nothing in common save my personal opinion that they are the finest of their genre. (Many would argue that Rosemary’s Baby belongs in horror, not fantasy, but my system allows for the blurring of these lines.)