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On arranging books

MY plan for arranging books doesn't have the glamour of the New York/Hollywood plan you often see illustrated in the magazines, but it is more substantial -- as Woolstein finally admitted. My threefold plan: the bookend, the criss cross, and the casual methods for arranging books. When judiciously employed by sincere people, my design offers, with minimal problems, a lifetime framework upon which to construct a library. The New York/Hollywood scheme, easy to identify by the pseudointellectual types lounging in front of wall-to-wall bookcases full of perfectly arranged books of absolutely even height, is a sham. Woolstein fell for it. Bookends: You can often trust them, but you need to be wary of the kind that extend under the first three or four books. As I write this, I am looking at: ``The Little Admiral,'' ``Tartans of Scotland,'' and ``Tales of Dickens,'' which I've never read, because they balance tenuously on the extension of a bookend. If I were to remove any one of these books, 100 adjoining books would avalanche. Nor have I perused (I turn in my chair): ``Fire and Ice, Part I,'' ``The Figs of Anger,'' or ``Toes and Noses of the Renaissance,'' which poise upon the extension of the matching bookend like rocks on a mountainside. Yet there's an honesty about bookends that Woolstein ignored.

Criss cross: You stand some books upright, lay some down, stand more upright, and so on. Woolstein, sniffing the air, supposed this method ``amateurish,'' and touted the praises of his buttoned-down New York/Hollywood mode (my pleading that this formula was as ephemeral as smoke to no avail). True, to actually utilize a crissed book involves some nasty jostling of other adjoining books, which, in turn, sets up a significant vibratory field that introduces potential, if not imminent, cataclysmic tremors -- ultimately rendering your den a maelstrom of undulating, oscillating books. So what? You learn to take the sour with the sweet. Woolstein pooh-poohed my criss cross arrangement.

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Casual: I did not invent the casual method of arranging books. It evolved and I simply adopted it. To wit: A person leaves a book where he finishes it. Controversy, initiated mainly by mothers, has surrounded this procedure. In spite of some pretty rough battles, the casual method hangs on, even flourishes. Woolstein, of course, eschewed the casual method as ``plebeian,'' ``vague,'' until 3 a.m. The pigeons, I'm afraid, came home to roost.

Woolstein's eyes blinked wildly under tousled hair as thunder and lightning crashed and flashed around his head. His old bathrobe, missing buttons, flapped in the wind, and he had lost a bedroom slipper somewhere.

``The New York/Hollywood method of arranging books,'' he lamented, ``is as phony as a portrait photographer's backdrop.''

It would have been easy to tell him ``I-told-you-so,'' but I didn't, although I gloated a little. Woolstein and I talked until dawn. We weighed the whole grotesque pile of bookish phantasmagoria, promulgated by the bibliophilic curmudgeons of New York and Hollywood, and discussed the victimized masses of genuine booklovers striving to find and follow the right way.

After I had recounted some war stories of how I, too, had made some book arrangement mistakes along the way and had dearly paid for them, I lent Woolstein a bedroom slipper and sent him home, laughing and leaping across the wet grass.

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