I’ve lost a book. Worse still, I’m not entirely sure I ever actually owned it in the first place. Its title is something like “Everyday Life in the 1930s,” and I know the local library has it; I also know it was so handy that I was going to buy it, but — assuming I actually did — it’s disappeared somewhere in my bookshelves.
This is not a normal thing for me. When my office was downstairs, I had everything arranged by subject: medieval history here, early modern there, classics above military arranged by war, science next to language below books on Japan…. I even had a special place to put the books I was using on a particular project. (OK, that’s an exaggeration. I had a shelf, and then a pile on the floor. But I could find things.) I knew what I had, where it was, and where I’d put it if it wasn’t in its proper place.
When I moved my office, though, other people put my books away, and, though I’ve made a couple of stabs at reorganizing things, I haven’t taken the time to do a proper job of it. And now I’m paying for it.
I think the most frustrating part is that I only need to look at it for about 10 seconds. All I want is to check on 1930s slang for homosexual. I know it’s in the book, I even know about where on the page it is — but I can’t find the book. So, in four minutes, when the library opens, I’m off to borrow their copy. Luckily, it’s only just around the corner, so the whole thing should take me less than 20 minutes, including a quick glance through the new arrivals. But I’d rather be writing!
On the other hand, this is slightly better than the last time I couldn’t find a book. Imagine me walking obsessively from one end of my bookshelves to the other, muttering, “where the hell are my Ming Dynasty eunuchs….”