All In the Game | Newberry

All In the Game

We really have to hand it to all you donors out there. Uncle Blogsy has been sorting books for nigh on to thirty-five years. (They gave ‘em to me in preschool, instead of blocks.) The Newberry, of course, has been in the book sorting biz for nearly a hundred years longer than that. And the sorting of books has been a preoccupation of humans since the second book was written. (The first one could be sorted under “Book”: that next one was the one that started all the trouble.)

And yet we STILL find things in those boxes you bring us which just will not fit into our categories. You work on this, don’t you? At night, when you COULD be inventing new ways to turn Styrofoam hamburger containers into platinum, you’re hunting for books and muttering, “Ha! They’ll never figure this one out!”

One of you gave us a copy of “The Art of Return of the Jedi” this week. That’s a book which examines the design and artwork that went into the making of that movie. Does that go under Art or with the movie books in Show Biz? (There’s always at least one person who shouts, “Science Fiction!” You will stay after school and sort eight track tapes.)

Someone else gave us a collection of the art of Assassin’s Creed, which is a video game. Is THAT art, or is it Games? And as for those of you who keep giving us books of the art of assorted manga, with minimal text (generally in Japanese) and great big heroic poses of the characters in these animated cartoons, and have us discussing the merits of Art, Show Biz, Children’s books, and Foreign Language, you can stay late and sort these empty record jackets.

I live in dread that someone will give us a book by Rudolf Eucken. Rudolf Eucken won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1908. You might think this makes things easy: plunk that fine old volume down in Literature. The problem is that Literature, the way we play this game, is a section for highly-regarded prose fiction. We toss in anthologies which included fiction, poetry, essays, and such, but by and large OUR Literature section is prose fiction.

And Rudolf won his Nobel for his books of philosophy. So when customers come in looking Eucken’s books, will they look in Literature and go away disappointed if we put them in…. What? No one’s going to come to the Book Fair looking for Rudolf anyhow? Good point. Step over into the corner and you can sort the flexi disc collection.

Here’s one you can contemplate late on these cold, snowy evenings. Is contemplation a religious practice solely, or is there secular contemplation? Would secular contemplation go into Philosophy (next to Rudolf Eucken) or How To (Head), where the latest tomes by psychologists on how to achieve peace of mind wind up? Or, hey, what about Psychology?

I tried reading through a bit of the book for hints. The book is made up of seventy-seven pages with words like Family and Community alone on each page. That’s what the book is about. You look at the word on the page and contemplate it. I SUPPOSE these are broad enough topics that you could contemplate them more than once, but some people are going to be restless if they have to start over on the 78th day. Is there a Contemplation II, or do the instructions (which I did not read) suggest turning the book upside-down the second time around so you can contemplate things from a new angle? Or would it last longer if you gave the book just a quarter turn every seventy-seven days and then…where were we?

There are people who have suggested a Miscellaneous category, but that’s the poltroon’s way out. One volunteer suggests anything can go into Books and Authors (yes, but then what about the CDs we don’t know how to sort?), while another used Fashion for this (“Anything can be in fashion,” she pointed out.) But see, any book can be sorted if you just think….

Aha! I’ll just publish a book with seventy-seven pictures of hard-to-sort books and promote it as a game, or a meditation practice. Knock that book on contemplation right out of the market.

(Those of you who feel we knocked it out of the market by sorting it into the wrong category will spend the Thanksgiving weekend sorting bookends.)

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