"Some People Read Automobile Books or Rifle Magazines"

The title of this post is a line from the 1968 movie The Boston Strangler.  Attorney John Bottomly (Henry Fonda), who has been questioning the alleged Boston Strangler (Tony Curtis) for hours at a time, unwinds after these long interrogations by burning the midnight oil, burying himself in his law books.  When his wife asks why he is reading law, he says this is his way of relaxing.  “Some people read automobile books or rifle magazines,” he says.

My level of energy and motivation has been almost non-existent.  I was able to feign enough energy and activity for my first day back to work since Wednesday, but pretty much ran out of energy as soon as I came home.  I said hi to Steph and Susie, checked to see if there was any mail for me (there wasn’t), and then went up to the master bedroom and fell asleep immediately.  I didn’t remove shoes, glasses, watch, or cell phone, just collapsed in a heap on the bed.

The energy level (either mental or physical) isn’t much higher now, but nevertheless I’m going to try to stay focused long enough to type out a blog entry.  (I have my ear buds in and am alternating between the B-52s and the Alan Parsons Project right now, with no clue as to what that does for/to creativity.)

So, since I read neither automobile books or rifle magazines (having never used either an automobile or a rifle in my 47 years on earth), what am I doing to unwind?  Yesterday, I had a somewhat sustained burst of activity (it may have been a manic episode) and I spent hours communing with BookDB2, a shareware program I downloaded earlier this month from Spacejock Software.  I’ve begun cataloging my “holdings” here.

I’ve made futile efforts at this in the past.  When I took a public speaking class at St. Mary’s Middle School in the eighth grade, I gave a presentation on my book collection, and I brought in a small red and black hardbound notebook in which I had listed every book I had on my shelf (or windowsill or tucked over my bedroom door).  There was no logic or order as to where they went on the shelf–Jim Bouton’s Ball Four could be side by side with Joseph Gallagher’s To Be a Catholic, and paperback classics of American literature jostled alongside Pocket Books editions of Erle Stanley Gardner.

Most recently, I seem to have caught the bug after the evening I spent volunteering at Sporeprint, helping to organize and catalog its lending library.  (I wrote about it in an earlier entry in this blog.)  Our goal was to shelve the books by Library of Congress Classification.  Many books published in the last decade print this information after the title page, but when confronted with a book that didn’t have this, another person looked up the appropriate call number from the Library of Congress’ online card catalog.

Steph and Susie, sitting at their respective laptops in the dining room, looked up from time to time to see me carrying armloads of books from the milk crate bookshelves here in the living room and stacking them on the floor around my worktable.  Once sitting at the laptop, I’d click on BookDB2 and begin entering the specifics about the book.  At first, I was content just to enter author and title information, and maybe date of copyright, but soon I decided to enter call numbers.  Just like at Sporeprint, I kept the Library of Congress’ page up, and often found myself looking up book titles so that it would retrieve the call numbers for me.

(We’ve all heard the myth that the Library of Congress has a copy of every single book published in the United States.  It is just that, a myth.  I have encountered two books in my own collection–and I am sure there are more–that the Library of Congress doesn’t possess.  One is Sam Hedrin’s novelization of Network, based on the screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky.  The other is Robert Lomas’ The Secrets of Freemasonry.)

To make the project even more interesting, I set up the main menu to sort by call number, so it fascinated me to see the titles arrange themselves by subject matter–which they definitely are not in at the present moment.  Once the project is finished, I may consider buying the little spine stickers, marking the books, and then trying to arrange them in some semblance of order.  At least in the main menu, the sacred books are organized together (right now The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton is on the same shelf as Stephen King and James A. Michener).

I plan to be a deliberate latecomer to the world of the Kindle.  I have seen more and more people on the bus with them, especially after work, but I still like my over-the-shoulder bag bursting with actual print, from library books to the composition book in which I write my diary.  I may be more tempted once the price drops, but until then, a Kindle is nowhere on the horizon.  That is probably why my all-time favorite Star Trek character, throughout all the various series, was Captain Kirk’s attorney Samuel T. Cogley in the original series first-season episode “Court Martial.”  He eschews the use of computers and tapes, saying, “I’ve got my own system!  Books, young man, books!”  He invites himself–along with his many books–to move into Kirk’s cabin and excitedly discourses on how much he loves books before planning Kirk’s case with him.

“This is where the law is!  Not in that
homogenized, pasteurized synthesizer!”
–Samuel T. Cogley (Elisha Cook) to
Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner)
in “Court Martial,” Stardate 2947.3
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