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"Gee. What colour is that?": A letter from Auralia Brooke

A few days ago we posted an article What do your bookshelves say about your personality? Are you a curator? A librarian? Perhaps you are an anarchist!

We asked our readers to take pictures of their bookshelves and to tell us what bookshelf personality you are. We received some fantastic submissions, which you can check out in our Bookshelves Vs. Personality Types album.

One submission, however, took us not only to her bookshelf, but into her home and through a maze of family memory. Thank you, Auralia Brooke, for your letter!

Dear Canada Writes,

Today, you're asking for pictures of bookshelves. I've attached a photo of one of mine, but despite what it might indicate, I am no designer. I'm a joyfully messy person, and someone who likes puzzles. I got this way because of my mom's address book.

The book has always been an essential part of our lives, the only way we could reach loved 
ones, co-workers, pizza delivery, or a babysitter. Any important contact we need is still in the book. It's been lovingly transferred from volume to volume, pages slowly disintegrating until we re-copy it into body after body. Sweetly nostalgic, isn't it? Don't be fooled. This book is a
Auralia post.jpg
 twisted game of hide-and-go-seek at night in a forest with a blindfold that never, ever comes off. 

The issue is that it is organized, not by first or last name or by category, but by association. 

When mum needed to call someone, she’d say “Rali, what’s Bob under?”, and then I’d have to think about where we met Bob, what we do with him, other Bobs we know, and how much we like him, and then I’d be like, “Oh, he’s under Nuts Bob” - and there his number would be, under N.

Sometimes, we just couldn’t find someone. Their number would turn up years later when we copied the book into a new set of pages, and we'd be like, "Oh, that makes sense. We called her Ice Cream Mary because we met her at summer camp" (where we were, clearly, having ice cream). Then we'd put her under Camp Mary in the new book, a strategy that either resulted in wild success or several more years of neglected friendship, depending on how often we thought about camp or about Mary. My mother has memories of spending three days searching for a number needed for a work deadline, only to find it filed under "B" for "Bad Things". 

The book is a very tiny chamber of puzzles that requires a sort of systematic reminiscence that is both inefficient and terrifyingly mood dependent ("Were we frustrated with Jane when we last saw her? Had we been to the restaurant with her yet? Or did we write her down before the restaurant incident?"). So, I'm not a designer. I'm a kid who has learned how to activate emergency sequences of memory to survive in the twisted labyrinth of our family history that is embedded in that book's pages. I swore when I was young that I’d never inflict irresponsibly personal systems on anyone else in my life, and my address book is notably tidy but...I have this bookshelf. And when my mom comes over and asks to borrow something, I just say, "Gee. What colour is that?"



Read on to see if you are a designer, an anarchist, or a conqueror. Or take a look at our readers' bookshelves on Facebook and see how yours measures up! To send us your bookshelf, your corresponding personality, and your story, email canadawrites[at]cbc.ca


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