Pepys Behind the Curtain

There were apparently a few people who LIKED the peek behind the curtain I gave them in the column where I discussed whose life goes into the Biography section and whose does not. There weren’t enough to encourage me to do a full series defining each of the categories at the Fair. (We’re moving all the manuals on Photoshop from Computer to Photography this year, if that information helps you sleep at night). But I thought I might just introduce the subject of Samuel Pepys.

We discussed good old Sam and his diaries twenty years ago or more, and came to a determination on the burning question he presented. Do the Pepys diaries go under Biography, since they obviously make up his life story)? Or does he belong with the lives of Defoe and Milton, down the aisle in Books & Authors? Is a person author enough to go into Books & Authors even if the book that made him famous was his own diary?

Yes, friends, it was decided that the diaries of Samuel Pepys would go into Books & Authors. It can be argued either way, I suppose, but somebody had to decide. We decided, and that was that, right?  But policies have a way of sneaking up behind you when you’re bending over a banana box. If Pepys qualifies for his diaries, where do we put Anne Frank?

Decisions, decisions: we’ve had suggestions that she go to Judaica, World War II (we don’t even have a World War II category), Children (because the book is frequently assigned in middle schools), and even Religion. Or should she follow Pepys into Books & Authors?  (And be careful, kumquat cupcake, because I’m holding Frederick Douglass’s autobiography in reserve after you’ve decided. Hey, these are the joys of a Book fair Manager.)

Okay, time’s up. We put Anne Frank into Books & Authors. And we put Frederick Douglass into African-American Studies.  Our reasoning is that Douglass made himself famous through his work for the African-American population, not so much by writing that autobiography.

This doesn’t mean that if you come to the Book Fair in the middle of the weekend, you will never find Douglass in Biography or Anne Frank in Judaica. Sometimes we have so many copies of a book that we spread it around all the categories it might conceivably fit, extending your chances of finding a copy. And sometimes the restockers, using their best judgment, put a book in a category other than the one where it started.  This harms nobody in particular, so far as I can see.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must just decide what to do with all these books on Mary Magdalene and her role in the history of the Holy Grail, and then decide which of these books on Joan of Arc go into Religion and which into Biography, or History. Say, and these books about the life of the Tsarevitch Alexei after he escaped the Russian Revolution need to find a category. And….

No wonder I’m always out of sorts.

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