All Sorts of Sorting

No two people will sort books into categories in exactly the same way.  Somebody has to step in and say “This Goes There” so we can at least try for consistency.  Perfect consistency is not possible, of course, even in this best of all possible worlds.  Some books fit just as well in this category as that.  And some authors deliberately make it hard: Whitney Otto with How To Make an American Quilt and Marina Lewycka with A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian. (Both novels, if you haven’t been keeping track.)

And to make life more interesting for YOU, some signs mean more than they say.  the sign says “Science Fiction”.  What we mean by it is “Science Fiction, fantasy, Horror, and All Speculative Fiction in General, along with new Age, Occult, Ufology, and Whatever Else We Thought You Guys Would Like”.  That won’t fit on the sign.  Clumping Stephen King, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Bernhardt J. Hurwood together with all adult novels on caveman and King Arthur keeps our sorters from puzzling about where to put the novel about vampires on a starship, and whether this new book on the Grail is fiction, nonfiction, or something inbetween.

Similarly, books on mythology have a section under Reference because the people who argued that tjhese should go into Religion, Athrolpology, Short Stories, or Children’s Books were stared down by our Curator in 1986.  And books on Illinois will be found under the Chicago sign, because we thought Chicago would attract more customers than the wimpy “Local Interest”.  And Erotica….

Look, I tried.  Once they even made me a sign for an Eerotica section and then wouldn’t let me use it.  So erotic books still go all over everywhere: Photography, Literature, Romance, what have you.  Just as well, really.  I already have enough to do, deciding what’s fiction and what’s nonfiction without also having to decide what’s erotic.  After all, one person’s red hot fetish is another person’s cold mashed potatoes.  (No, your Ex did NOT call and tell me about your potatoes.  I was just using that as an example.)  I expect some customers find their naughty thrills in the transmission section of the Chilton Volkswagen manual.

The aim, as you might have guessed, is not perfect classification.  I keep telling people, “We’re the Book Fair.  The library’s upstairs.”  (So stop coming to me and explaining why you think Pearl Buck doesn’t belong in Literature.)  I’m just trying to lay out some boundaries so Terry Southern’s Candy doesn’t end up in Cookbooks, and Portrait of the Artist As a Young Dog isn’t found in Nature.  With people dropping off quilts and Picasso prints and $15,000 leaf books, I can’t spend my time worrying about the implications of putting the Anglo-Saxon editions of Beowulf in Foreign Language.  (“But Mr. Manager!  Anglo-Saxon is a form of English, and how can English be a Foreign Language?”  “Look, Kid, why don’t you run over there and see if there are any Chilton manuals left.  I hear some of those car books are pretty racy.”)

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