It's finally happened
I know I’ve been heading in this direction for a long time now, but today, for the first time, I had to retire some of my old anthropology books. The office I work in had been devoted strictly to archaeology, anthropology, and cultural history. Then, about five years ago, another bookcase crept into the closet, this one loaded with books on writing and reference books on forensics, police procedure, and pirates (I will write that pirate book one day). It also has some office supplies, my academic robes, and some old field equipment (tape measures, string, a trowel or two), but since the writing books are stacked two deep, even if I clean all that out, I won’t gain a lot of space. For some reason, the cat chooses to sleep amid this precariousness; I’ve tried her basket in other, equally protected, more salubrious places in the room, attempting to figure the cat-calculus of being near the center of things and yet being hidden, neither too warm nor too cold. It didn’t work; she likes it here, possibly because the curtains I put up when I removed the closet door makes her feel like a princess. I even bought another narrow bookcase to go outside the closet, but it’s already filled to the brim with reference books for Exit Interview.
Anyhoo. I ran down the list of shelves that I might free up and realized I still use a lot of these in my work. But I realized I never wanted to see the theory books again. I get what it’s for, but theory always seemed to me to get in the way of what I went into archaeology for in the first place: the people. I always tried to be aware of my biases and how I framed research, but once that was overtly stated, I just wanted to spend time with the people I was studying, long dead, but still oh, so human.
I won’t throw the books out, not yet. They’re more than likely dated anyway, but it’s still hard to let them go entirely, as unloved as they may have been. I’ll put them in the basement in airtight containers so they won’t mildew, and if I don’t find myself wondering where they are in a year, maybe I’ll give them to a library. Who will use them to prop open doors, more than likely (I don’t expect to be greated with “Oh, thank you! We’ve been dying to score some 25–year old social science theory!”). For now, Marvin Harris has been replaced with Ben Bradlee and Bruce Trigger with Bob Woodward and Hunter S. Thompson in the new journalism/Washington Post section.
All this is good for reassessing oneself, for organization, and for rediscovering things. If the books remained piled on the floor (and there is never not a book pile somewhere on the floor), how will I know whether I already have Jane’s Guns Recognition Guide? And reshuffling things led me to find a notebook that I was afraid was MIA as well as a URL for a good online underwear store (interestingly, this was tucked in a copy of Dick Crouch’s Down Range). Now I can get a good idea for what I need next time I have a rave-up at the bookstore at the International Spy Museum.
I don’t know what will go next. It’s nice to know I can set some things aside in favor of new adventures. And then there’s that good puritan feeling of cleaning. So watch this space: next, I’ll be tackling that closet and the fiction library/guest bedroom, and just maybe, sometime soon, there’ll be room for an actual guest.