Thursday, 8 February 2018

I've got piles…

I for one definitely didn't spend four hours moving books around last night because several piles fell over in the middle of the previous night, covering themselves and most of my bedroom in Linen and Sandalwood oil from the bottle onto which they collapsed, and waking me up from a dream in which I was having to do a practical criticism exam on the works of Baroness Orczy, with the Baroness in the room. I've read the first of her Scarlet Pimpernel novels, and that was enough.

By shelving, I mean that the books I've read get moved onto shelves in alphabetical order while the piles of unread books next to the cases of unread books in the Room of Unread Books get higher and more unstable. Currently my vinyl and CD collections share the dining room with Ben Aaronovitch-Jilly Cooper (I'm very sad that with the death of my Positions module, Riders will no longer be taught here), Victoria Coren-EL James (before you say anything, I'm supervising a PhD on fan fiction) are in the drawing room with the Left Book Club collection (as yet incomplete), typography, art and architecture selections plus the bound set of London Review of Books.

Henry James-Philip Ziegler are in the spare bedroom alongside several piles of unread fiction and a case of biographies and autobiographies, the box room contains three double-shelved cases and piles of unread fiction and non-fiction, while the bedroom holds books I'm reading right now, a bookcase of poetry and various uniform edition rows, and there are a couple of random piles. Cookery books are in the kitchen, naturally, and for some reason Fire and Fury is on the washing machine. There are no books in the bathroom, though I'm reliably informed that cheaply-glued paperbacks hold together if exposed to the steam. Around the piles of books are a nest of rags to sleep on, a plastic bag for clothes and a bucket for ablutions. Oh, and a couple of bikes. Imagine 221b Baker Street but lacking the cocaine, the amanuensis, or the genius. I do have a violin though.

At work, we get one cupboard for books: in mine are my holdings of Welsh literature, triple-shelved, and a few things I'm teaching. Next to it, behind my Moulton bicycle is an enormous pile of Tory Novels (mostly Tory, mostly novels) which form one of my current research projects (thanks colleagues).

Mine is actually blue and has drop bars and various refinements

The desk is also rather piled high with either books I'm using at the moment or ones which have just come in. Only today I picked up Kit de Waal's My Name Is Leon: Kit is coming to the university on Monday, and Joe Dunthorne's The Adulterants. I've long been a fan: Submarine was funny and moving, Wild Abandon raised the bar considerably, and like Margaret Atwood, he's an even better poet than novelist (shame that neither of them will sell the movie rights of their poems to HBO). And finally, we have a Reading Room with some huge, beautiful glass-fronted bookcases. I've appropriated 4 of them for all my critical theory texts. In return, they are available to students, at least two of whom will shortly be hunted down like dogs for apparently sending them away on a long, long journey.

Other things I've picked up recently include Danny Morrison's story of same-sex love amidst the Troubles, On The Back of the Swallow, GR Mitchison's 1934 speculative fiction The First Workers' Government or New Times for Henry Dubb with an introduction by Stafford Cripps – both for the politicians' fictions project – Simon Morden's The Lost Art which had plenty of good ideas but a fairly thin plot, Jeff Noon's new one A Man of Shadows and Will Self's Phone. I've been teaching A View From the Bridge and Foucault this week, so I read them, finished Nicholas Blake's A Tangled Web (as usual with him, taut structure, literate, vampirically misogynist) and am still reading Religion and the Decline of Magic. Between manic bouts of marking, that is. We've all really felt under the cosh recently, and despite the official mantra of 'Students First', colleagues have been struggling to write Teaching Excellence Framework documents at the same time as teaching and meeting marking documents. As a reward, we all received a notice from the VC's office practically begging us to take a very little money and run, which is reassuring. Still, the Literature Festival turned out to have been a success: 6200 visitors to 98 events. I'm going to work on more successful children's events next year. I think I'll need a costume and a song.

Actually, this isn't far removed from the desperate, craven methods we're using to unsuccessfully persuade students to complete the NSS. I threatened to drown the department dog last week…

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