It’s not difficult to find the exterior alley-entrance to my personal Green Man library; not so difficult, if you know just where to brush aside the thick glossy leaves of winter ivy threatening to swallow the old painted planks of the rounded wooden door. The shiny, beetle-like carapace of the black buzzer for afterhours deliveries of linen-wrapped tomes sits nestled in brick beside the iron handle of the exit, used for late-night, fumbling departures of Green Man staff leaving bleary-eyed and sleepy from hours of post-midnight reading and casual tippling.
In a perhaps over-enthusiastic bout of literary egalitarianism, I’ve cast off the shackles of genre classification, declaring loudly and often that no library of mine is going to be splintered into so-called ‘genres’. Genre categorization is — well, I was going to call it a tool of the patriarchy, but let’s call it marketing and distribution, instead. Punk rock habits die hard, I’ll admit, and rigid genre labels smack too thoroughly of arbitrary authority for me to not question their value.
Instead, I’ll shelve like books by author; we’re not trying to hawk product here. I imagine myself tapping a fingernail idly against my teeth in thought, other hand on kilted hip, eyes narrowed as I consider the dust-moted, sunlit room. All right, then: we’ll section off fiction from non-fiction from cookbooks, though author trumps function. And comics deserve their own shelves for archiving and storage purposes . . . But no fiction subgenres! My main criterion for the works here is good, right?
Now we’ve got that settled, ambiance. I like a little genuine reading going on in my library, so people have to want to hang out for awhile or forever. I’ll just plump this worn velveteen cushion, move this ottoman a little to the left . . . ahh, better. The room is generously supplied with big, comfy chairs, no harsh overhead lighting (I’m perversely averse to ceiling fixtures), and coffee tables solid enough to prop the feet on. And I was most insistent regarding the draft beer taps and espresso machine in the corner. We’re always careful with the books, never fear; we mind our pints and our demitasse. Quality of life, people, quality of life . . .
Sorry. Got distracted for a time there with my gilded, dog-eared copy of Anansi Boys and a pint — all right, two pints — of stout, enjoyed so much more with my oversized boots braced on the low wood table, mellowed by the rings of a hundred hot and cold beverages and chosen for just such a purpose.
And so, to the books. Strangely, I’m vastly less concerned about the actual books. I’m egalitarian, genre-dextrous. I’m always willing to give something new a try, my library eternally open to submissions. I’ll admit I’m glad to be merely the designer here, and not the librarian or the acquisitions committee.
However, if pressed, I might humbly submit to the KInrowan Estate Private Library Acquisitions Committee for consideration the complete works of the following authors (in no particular order): Claude Lalumière, Neil Gaiman, Dorothy Parker, Barry Hughart, Emma Bull, M.T. Anderson, Philip Reeve, Georgette Heyer, Doris Piserchia, David Sedaris, Ursula K. LeGuin, Margaret Atwood, Edgar Allan Poe, Peter S. Beagle, Shirley Jackson, Kurt Vonnegut, Jane Austen, Patrick O’Brien, Raymond Carver, Marion Zimmer Bradley, George R.R. Martin, Jaime & Gilbert Hernandez (Complete Love & Rockets and Palomar collections), Richard Adams, Carl Hiaasen, Larry McMurtry, Connie Willis, Roger deV. Renwick, Scott O’Dell, Edward Gorey, and Anaïs Nin.
And please, everyone feel free to throw in any magical, mystical weirdness that transcends the boundaries of the ordinary. I’m sure I’ve forgotten, or never been exposed to, so very many wonderful things.