Home: Shelved

I forgot what I was doing, standing here. That’s right — looking for a place to put this finished book. I scan the shelves to see where it might fit best.

The top shelf contains mostly coffee table books. Below that, nonfiction. History on the left, biography and memoir on the right.

Toward the middle of the shelf, sandwiched between the history and biographies, a small grouping of baseball-related books: a chronicle of the 1919 Black Sox scandal, a collection of essays about the New York Yankees, a famous novel about a slugger who plays for the fictional New York Knights.

My gaze is again drawn upward to the top shelf and rests on a large, glossy gift book. Dust jacket still in pristine condition. A comprehensive history of baseball, covering everything from the so-called “dead ball” era through the steroid scandals of the late 90s and early aughts.

Although I’ve had this book for 20-some years, I can still recall vivid details of my life back then — a period in life that a biographer might describe as “formative.”

I first became interested in history around this time. This fascination with the past merged with my love of baseball, producing an early obsession: baseball history.

A favorite memory from the time involves answering trivia questions printed in the publication Baseball Weekly. Extremely difficult, esoteric questions that required trips to the library with my dad to consult books filled with nothing but baseball statistics and to search through newspaper microfilm.

The sought-after prize for this contest was tickets to the World Series, but it was the search and mystery of the research that really impressed upon me.

I keep searching for a place to shelve this book. An interesting read — a blend of memoir, nature writing, literature study. It can’t be placed just anywhere.

I look to the shelf below the nonfiction and biographies. Mostly required reading from college: European novels (admittedly, many half-read), a book of philosophy, a Penguin Classics edition of Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur.

To the right of “Europe” is the Internet modem and wireless router. An antique ashtray separates the electronics from the books.

Below is fiction. Novels and short-story collections are arranged arbitrarily, grouped into clusters by creator. I look over to one of my favorites: The Stories of John Cheever.

The bottom shelf is filled with books about music and film. Separating music from film is a stuffed toy of Ludwig van Beethoven. The manufacturer’s tag, still attached to the plush composer, contains the briefest of biographical sketches and includes an intriguing quote attributed to the maestro: “Music is a higher revelation than philosophy.”

I look back to the Cheever anthology and am reminded of a story containing one of my favorite descriptions of classical music. Within a story about, of all things, baseball, is a description that to my mind perfectly describes the music of Frederic Chopin and the sensibility of the romantics: “Of rain, ruins, and the faintest bit of narcissism.”

Finally, I wake from my daydreaming and place the book at hand on the middle shelf next to the antique ashtray. The Cubs are playing today.


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