Friday, October 16, 2009

the quarter-life crisis of Dionysus

Tonight I gathered up all of the books lying loose around my apartment and put them on shelves, in an order that made at least a small amount of sense. It's part of an ongoing effort on my part to make my apartment into a better and more "adult" living space, to have a desk relatively free of papers (we're not talking scattered pages here; we're talking stacks of sheet music) and a minimum of cat hair on the floor. It's always felt like some sort of moral disorder, my lack of tidiness; if I were truly a good person, I'd open all my mail and throw away my old magazines, or at the very least get rid of the old broken kitchen appliances sitting under one of my dumpster-dived (dumpster-dove?) chairs. But as it stands, I seem to be quite content to live at a certain level of sloth, and as long as I don't cross certain vaguely-defined lines ("not embarrassed to have the maintenance person come by" is a good one) I happily co-exist with my piles of outdated student-composed quartet parts, thrift store postcards, and a rather puzzling number of spare vacuum cleaner bags.

If I normally live somewhere in the Dionysian realms in terms of cleanliness, I do occasionally enjoy exploring my latent Apollonian tendencies. There's a certain satisfaction in having a sink free of dishes and a visible desktop; if nothing else, it makes me feel virtuous, like I've accomplished something I could potentially tell my mother about on the phone. So tonight, as I talked to E about unexpected mortality--and, alternately--survival and witnessing a forty-one year old's ecstatic personal breakthrough (which oh, I wish I could write about), I was also gathering up the books that I'd managed to slip onto every available surface over the past month or so. I started sorting them into vague categories, like wilderness books, political books, books by Toni Morrison (there were three). But the biggest category was roughly entitled "books I'm happy I've read and so want to have somewhere visible in case you've read them too and we can talk about it while we drink tea." Really, my pretense of virtue was just intellectual snobbery, a vice.

This is illustrated best by the fact that my desk is still six inches deep in sheet music. After I got the books shelved, I decided that, for tonight, my room was clean enough, and I wrote this instead. The books were the most important part anyway, and I can rest easy tonight knowing that, although the Toni Morrison is all shelved together, the Ed Abbey is spread out over three different sections of shelf. Even in my order, there has to be a little chaos.

2 comments:

Rosiecat said...

I think the argument about visible books is not intellectual snobbery but rather a desire to connect with someone else on a topic that made you feel passion. I say, make those books front and center and open the doors to a friendly intellectual exchange!

I'm going to follow your example and continue massaging my new apartment into good living conditions. Contrary to my hopes, these boxes are not unpacking themselves :-P

pulley-whipped said...

ha! - "books I'm happy I've read and so want to have somewhere visible in case you've read them too and we can talk about it while we drink tea."

am i so old fashioned that i think arranging books alphabetically is kind of awesome?