# Jen Valentine
& Brief Notes
on the Art and Manner of
Arranging Oneâ€™s Books
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table of contents
2 brief notes on the art and manner of arranging oneâ€™s books
10 arrangements 12 map points 16 five star ratings 18 timeline 20 book relations 22 books preview 24 less than zero 26 one flew over the cuckooâ€™s nest 28 a tale of two cities 30 slaughterhouse - five or the childrenâ€™s crusade: a duty - dance with death
32 midnight in the garden of good and evil 34 catch - 22 36 one hundred years of solitude 38 fahrenheit 451 40 nineteen eighty - four 42 a million little pieces 44 about
Brief Notes on the Art and Manner of Arranging One’s Books* an except from Species of Spaces and Other Pieces by Georges Perec
*First published in L’Humidité in 1978. 1. A library I call a sum of books constituted by a non-professional reader for
his own pleasure and daily use. This excludes the collections of bibliophiles and fine bindings by the yard, but also the majority of specialized libraries (those in universities, for example) whose particular problems match those of public libraries.
Every library1 answers a twofold need, which is often also a twofold obsession: that of conserving certain objects (books) and that of organizing them in certain ways. One of my friends had the idea one day of stopping his library at 361 books. The plan was as follows: having attained, by addition or subtraction, and starting from a given number n of books, the number K = 361, deemed as corresponding to a library, if not an ideal then at least a sufficient library, he would undertake to acquire on a permanent basis a new book X only after having eliminated (by giving away, throwing out, selling or any other appropriate means) an old book Z, so that the total number K of works should remain constant and equal to 361: K + X >361> K - Z. As it evolved this seductive scheme came up against predictable obstacles for which the unavoidable solutions were found. First, a volume was to be seen as counting as one (1) book even if it contained three (3) novels (or collections of poems, essays, etc.); from which it was deduced that three (3) or four (4) or n (n) novels by the same author counted (implicitly) as one (1) volume by that author, as fragments not yet brought together but ineluctably bringable together in a Collected Works. Whence it was adjudged that this or that recently acquired novel by this or that Englishlanguage novelist of the second half of the nineteenth century could not logically count as a new work X but as a work Z belonging to a series under construction: the set T of all the novels written by the aforesaid novelist (and God knows there are some!). This didn’t alter the original scheme in any way at all: only instead of talking about 361 books, it was decided that the sufficient library was ideally to be made up of 361 authors, whether they had written a slender opuscule or enough to fill a truck.
So then, one of the chief problems encountered by the man who keeps the books he has read or promises himself that he will one day read is that of the increase in his library. Not everyone has the good fortune to be Captain Nemo: ‘...the world ended for me the day my Nautilus dived for the first time beneath the waves. On that day I bought my last volumes, my last pamphlets, my last newspapers, and since that time I would like to believe that mankind has neither thought nor written.’ Captain Nemo’s 12,000 volumes, uniformly bound, were thus classified once and for all, and all the more simply because the classification, as is made clear to us, was uncertain, at least from the language point of view (a detail which does not at all concern the art of arranging a library but is meant simply to remind us that Captain Nemo spoke all languages indiscriminately). But for us, who continue to have to do with a human race that insists on thinking, writing and above all publishing, the increasing size of our libraries tends to become the one real problem. For it’s not too difficult, very obviously, to keep ten or twenty or let’s say even a hundred books; but once you start to have 361, or a thousand, or three thousand, and especially when the total starts to increase every day or thereabouts, the problem arises, first of all of arranging all these books somewhere and then of being able to lay your hand on them one day when, for whatever reason, you either want or need to read them at last or even to reread them. Thus the problem of a library is shown to be twofold: a problem of space first of all, then a problem of order.
This modification proved effective over several years. But it soon became apparent that certain works - romances of chivalry, for example - had no author or else had several authors, and that certain authors - the Dadaists, for example - could not be kept separate from one another without automatically losing 80 to 90 per cent of what made them interesting. The idea was thus reached of a library restricted to 361 subjects - the term is vague but the groups it covers are vague also at times - and up until now that limitation has been strictly observed.
brief notes on the art and manner of arranging one’s books • #
1. Of Space 1.1. Generalities Books are not dispersed but assembled. Just as we put all the pots of jam into a jam cupboard, so we put all our books into the same place, or into several same places. Even though we want to keep them, we might pile our books away into trunks, put them in the cellar or the attic, or in the bottoms of wardrobes, but we generally prefer them to be visible. In practice, books are most often arranged one beside the other, along a wall or division, on rectilinear supports, parallel with one another, neither too deep nor too far apart. Books are arranged usually - standing on end and in such a way that the title printed on the spine of the work can be seen (sometimes, as in bookshop windows, the cover of the books is displayed, but it is unusual, proscribed and nearly always considered shocking to have only the edge of the book on show). In current room layouts, the library is known as an ‘area’ for books. This, most often, is a module belonging as a whole to the ‘living-room’, which likewise contains a drop-leaf drinks cabinet drop-leaf writing desk two-door dresser hi-fi unit television console slide projector display cabinet etc. and is offered in catalogues adorned with a few false bindings. In practice books can be assembled just about anywhere.
1. 2. Rooms where books may be put in the entrance hall in the sitting room in the bedroom(s) in the bog Generally speaking, one kind of book is put in the room you cook in, the ones known as ‘cookery books’. It is extremely rare to find books in a bathroom, even though for many people this is a favourite place to read in. The surrounding humidity is unanimously considered a prime enemy of the conservation of printed texts. At the most, you may find in a bathroom a medicine cupboard and in the medicine cupboard a small work entitled What to do before the doctor gets there.
1. 3. Places in a room where books can be arranged On the shelves of fireplaces or over radiators (it may be thought, even so, that heat may, in the long run, prove somewhat harmful), between two windows, in the embrasure of an unused door, on the steps of a library ladder, making this unusable (very chic), underneath a window, on a piece of furniture set at an angle and dividing the room into two (very chic, creates an even better effect with a few pot-plants).
brief notes on the art and manner of arranging one’s books • #
1.4. Things which arenâ€™t books but are often met with in libraries Photographs in gilded brass frames, small engravings, pen and ink drawings, dried flowers in stemmed glasses, matchboxholders containing, or not, chemical matches (dangerous), lead soldiers, a photograph of Ernest Renan in his study at the CollĂŠge de France,* postcards, dollsâ€™ eyes, tins, packets of salt, pepper and mustard from Lufthansa, letter-scales, picture hooks, marbles, pipe-cleaners, scale models of vintage cars, multicoloured pebbles and gravel, ex-votos, springs.
*A famously pompous, highminded nineteenth-century scholar and writer,
unlikely to have appealed to GP.
2. Of Order in libraries A library that is not arranged becomes disarranged: this is the example I was given to try and get me to understand what entropy was and which I have several times verified experimentally. Disorder in a library is not serious in itself; it ranks with ‘Which drawer did I put my socks in?’. We always think we shall know instinctively where we have put such and such a book. And even if we don’t know, it will never be difficult to go rapidly along all the shelves. Opposed to this apologia for a sympathetic disorder is the smallminded temptation towards an individual bureaucracy: one thing for each place and each place for its one thing, and vice versa. Between these two tensions, one which sets a premium on letting things be, on a good-natured anarchy, the other that exalts the virtues of the tabula rasa, the cold efficiency of the great arranging, one always ends by trying to set one’s books in order. This is a trying, depressing operation, but one liable to produce pleasant surprises, such as coming upon a book you had forgotten because you could no longer see it and which, putting off until tomorrow what you won’t do today, you finally re-devour lying face down on your bed.
2.1. Ways of arranging books ordered alphabetically ordered by continent or country ordered by colour ordered by date of acquisition ordered by date of publication ordered by format ordered by genre ordered by major periods of literary history ordered by language ordered by priority for future reading ordered by binding ordered by series None of these classifications is satisfactory by itself. In practice, every library is ordered starting from a combination of these modes of classification, whose relative weighting, resistance to change, obsolescence and persistence give every library a unique personality. We should first of all distinguish stable classifications from provisional ones. Stable classifications are those which, in principle, you continue to respect; provisional classifications are those supposed to last only a few days, the time it takes for a book to
discover, or rediscover, its definitive place. This may be a book recently acquired and not yet read, or else a book recently read that you don’t quite know where to place and which you have promised yourself you will put away on the occasion of a forth-coming ‘great arranging’, or else a book whose reading has been interrupted and that you don’t want to classify before taking it up again and finishing it, or else a book you have used constantly over a given period, or else a book you have taken down to look up a piece of information or a reference and which you haven’t yet put back in its place, or else a book that you can’t put back in its rightful place because it doesn’t belong to you and you’ve several times promised to give it back, etc. In my own case, nearly three-quarters of my books have never really been classified. Those that are not arranged in a definitively provisional way are arranged in a provisionally definitive way, as at the OuLiPo. Meanwhile, I move them from one room to another, one shelf to another, one pile to another, and may spend three hours looking for a book without finding it but sometimes having the satisfaction of coming upon six or seven others which serve my purpose just as well.
brief notes on the art and manner of arranging one’s books • #
2.2. Books very easy to arrange The big Jules Vernes in the red binding, very large books, very small ones, Baedekers, rare books or ones presumed to be so, hardbacks, volumes in the PlĂŠiade collection, the PrĂŠsence du Futur series, novels published by the Editions de Minuit, collections, journals of which you possess at least three issues, etc.
2.3. Books not too difficult to arrange Books on the cinema, whether essays on directors, albums of movie stars or shooting scripts, South American novels, ethnology, psychoanalysis, cookery books (see above), directories (next to the phone), German Romantics, books in the Que Sais-je? series (the problem being whether to arrange them all together or with the discipline they deal with), etc.
2.4. Books just about impossible to arrange The rest: for example, journals of which you possess only a single issue, or else La Campagne de 1812 en Russie by Clausewitz, translated from the German by M. Bégouën, Captain-Commandant in the 31st Dragoons, Passed Staff College, with one map, Paris, Librairie Militaire R. Chapelot et Cie, 1900; or else fascicule 6 of Volume 91 (November 1976) of the Proceedings of the Modern Language Association of America (PMLA) giving the programme for the 666 working sessions of the annual congress of the said Association. Like the librarians of Babel in Borges’s story, who are looking for the book that will provide them with the key to all the others, we oscillate between the illusion of perfection and the vertigo of the unattainable. In the name of completeness, we would like to believe that a unique order exists that would enable us to accede
in knowledge all in one go; in the name of the unattainable, we would like to think that order and disorder are in fact the same word, denoting pure chance. It’s possible also that both are decoys, illusions intended to disguise the erosion of both books and systems. It is no bad thing in any case that between the two our bookshelves should serve from time to time as joggers of the memory, as cat-rests and as lumber-rooms.
brief notes on the art and manner of arranging one’s books • #
arrangements containing a brief overview of ways books arranged themselves
arrangements â€˘ #
47 plot points
ch ica go
geles los an
29 27 20 30 23 26 3132 25 22 n
# of countries resided in us states
average times visited
ELEVEN 20 / 50 40%
47 places frequented 83 times most frequented locations
new york city london
los angeles 5 chicago 5 paris 4
yo rk cit y
lon do n
books & authors
36 38 39
ris pa 37
46 44 45
map points â€˘ #
of all visits
map points places & frequency
palo alto, ca
los angeles, ca
pleasant hill, or
las vegas, nv
la junta, co
iowa city, ia
cape cod, ma 2
university park, pa 1 38 paris
new york city, ny
new haven, ct
map points â€˘ #
6 8 .2 3 %
7 2 .7 1 %
100 22 1st
years of solitude
3 6 2 .7 0 %
flew over the cuckooâ€™s nest
one flew over the cuckoos nest
5 star ratings based on amazon users
1 4 .6 0 % 1 0 .1 1 %
3 7 .8 2 %
1 5 .3 5 % 2 2 .0 9 %
1s t t
little pieces t
4 4 .1 8 %
five star ratings â€˘ #
in the garden of good and evil
5 1 .8 3 %
5 2 .3 4 %
date of novel
including: date novel begins year of publication authors birth year
publication date less than zero one flew over the cuckooâ€™s nest a tale of two cities slaughterhouse - five midnight in the garden of good and evil catch - 22 one hundred years of solitude fahrenheit 451 1984 a million little pieces
4 weeks 6 months 17 years ~ 30 years
1 year 18 months 9 months the future ~ 1 year
authors birth year
span of time per each novel
timeline â€˘ #
A MILLION LITTLE PIECES
LESS THAN ZERO
ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE
book relations based on amazon recommendations
MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL
ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST
CATCHER IN THE RYE : A CONTROL 90%
A TALE OF TWO CITIES 60%
book relations • #
TITLE OF BOOK AUTHOR LAST NAME, First Name b(irth date) mm.dd.yyyy birth place d(eath date) mm.dd.yyyy death place publication year amazon best seller rank # of pages
other books written by said author in no particular order
“First sentence of the novel.
book preview • #
LESS THAN ZERO ELLIS, Bret Easton b 03.07.1964 los angeles, ca
1985 publication #6,565 amazon books
less than zero the rules of attraction american psycho the informers glamorama lunar park imperial bedrooms
“People are afraid to merge
on freeways in Los Angeles.
less than zero • #
ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOOâ€™S NEST KESEY, Ken b 09.17.1935 la junta, co d 11.10.2001 pleasant hill, or
1962 publication #33,769 amazon books
one flew over the cuckoo’s nest sometimes a great notion kesey’s garage sale demon box caverns sailor song last go round kesey’s jail journal
“They’re out there.
one flew over the cuckoo’s nest • #
A TALE OF TWO CITIES DICKENS, Charles b 02.07.1812 landport, england d 06.09.1870 kent, england
1859 publication #15,992 amazon books
a tale of two cities
pictures from italy
sketches by boz
old curiosity shop
our mutual friend
mystery of edwin drood
battle of life
cricket on the hearth
master humphrey’s clock
read at dusk
bombey and son
and many, many more
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. # a tale of two cities •
SLAUGHTERHOUSE - FIVE or THE CHILDREN’S CRUSADE : A DUTY-DANCE WITH DEATH
VONNEGUT, Kurt b 11.11.1922 indianaopils, ia d 04.11.2007 new york city, ny
1969 publication #1,044 amazon books
slaughterhouse-five, or the children’s
crusade: a duty-dance with death
galápagos: a novel
bluebeard, the autobiography of rabo
the sirens of titan
god bless you, mr. rosewater, or pearls before swine breakfast of champions, or goodbye blue monday slapstick, or lonesome no more! jailbird
“All this happened, more “
slaughterhouse - five, or the children’s crusade : a duty - dance with death • #
MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL BERENT, John b 12.05.1939 syracuse, ny
1994 publication #5,054
midnight in the garden of good and evil the city of falling angels
He was tall, about fifty, with darkly handsome, almost sinister features: a neatly trimmed mustache, hair turning silver at temples, and eyes so black they were like the tinted windows of a sleek limousine - he could see out, but you couldn’t see in.
midnight in the garden of good and evil • #
CATCH - 22 HELLER, Joseph b 05.01.1923 brooklyn, ny d 12.12.1999 east hampton, ny
1961 publication # 738
catch - 22 something happened good as gold god knows picture this closing time portrait of an artist, as an old man
“It was love at first sight.
catch - 22 • #
ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE MÁRQUEZ, Gabriel García b 03.06.1927 aracataca, columbia
1967 publication #894 amazon books
one hundred years of solitude
no one writes to the colonel
the general in his labyrinth
leaf storm and other stories
the autumn of the patriarch
of love and other demons
innocent eréndira and other stories
news of a kidnapping
in evil hour
living to tell the tale
chronicle of a death foretold
memories of my melancholy whores
collected stories the story of a shipwrecked sailor clandestine in chile: the adventures of miguel littín love in the time of cholera
years later, as he faced “Many the firing squad, Colonel Aure-
liano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.
one hundred years of solitude • #
FAHRENHEIT 451 BRADBURY, Ray b 08.22.1920 waukegan, il
1953 publication #2,218 amazon books
fahrenheit 451 the martian chronicles dandelion wine something wicked this way comes the halloween tree death is a lonely business a graveyard for lunatics green shadows, white whale from the dust returned let’s all kill constance farewell summer
“It was a pleasure to burn.
fahrenheit 451 • #
NINETEEN EIGHTY - FOUR ORWELL, George b 06.25.1903 bihar, british india d 01.21.1950 london, england
1949 publication # 729
nineteen eighty - four burmese days a clergyman’s daughter keep the aspidistra flying coming up for air animal farm
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
nineteen eighty - four • #
A MILLION LITTLE PIECES FREY, James b 09.12.1969 ohio, usa
2003 publication #3,379 amazon books
a million little pieces my friend leonard bright shiny morning the final testament of the holy bible
â€œI wake to the drone of an air-
plane engine and the feeling of something warm dripping down my chin.
a million little pieces â€˘ #
about the author & the project
about the author
Jen Valentine is a graphic designer based out of Chicago, IL. She studied at Columbia College Chicago, earning her BFA in May 2012. She is currently working as a freelancer in the Chicago area, but sees broad horizons in her future. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
about the project
This exploration of data came about upon reading Perec’s except Brief Notes on the Art and Manner of Arranging One’s Books from his work Species of Spaces and Other Pieces. It was a sudden realization at this point, that my books remained disarranged by any means besides the limitations of their size. With further inspection, it happened that approximately 80% of the books in my library contained numbers in their title. It was then that I decided to use the numerical data ( found within the book’s title, the book itself, and Amazon.com’s selection of recommendations and star ratings ) to arrange my books. Utilizing charts, timelines, and graphic elements I was able to present information to the viewer to enhance their understanding of the plot and the use of each specific number in the title. Typeset in DIN and printed by blurb.com in 2012. All graphical elements were made by Jen Valentine.
about • #