Friday, October 15, 2010


I'm overbooked. I mean, I don't know where else to put them: my books. I have four moving boxes full of books in the trunk of my car, three boxes on the only chair in the kitchen, and three boxes here by my laptop waiting to be "sorted" so I can decide which I need and which will be relegated to the attic.

Some of these boxes have not been opened since I packed them in Houston in 2001. Or thereabouts. I can't remember. So it was a joy this evening to slit the yellow packing tape, open the corrugated flaps (dusty! phew!) and find my copies of William Stafford's You Must Revise Your Life & Writing the Australian Crawl sandwiched beneath the fantastic anthology Another Republic (which I bought in Houston for Garrett Hongo's undergraduate poetry course) and the hmm-why-do-I-still-have-this Roadside Flowers of Texas.

Oh, books. I love you but I can't revisit all of you. It's such a shame to lock you in the attic for another ten years. I've already given hundreds--hundreds--of you away to a couple of college libraries. Mainly poetry, yes, which takes up so little space compared to the Encyclopedia of Aquarium Fishes and the Pequeno LaRousse Ilustrado and Philip Lopate's The Art of the Personal Essay. Last night I dreamed that I picked one of you each week to give away, orphaning you one at a time to lessen the pain of parting, by setting a fresh book out on the front stoop each Friday with a little note tied around its middle: Free to a good home. This afternoon I remembered the dream and thought, Why not? I'll call it "Free Book Friday" (so original) and maybe, ooohh, maybe I can post a cover scan or a book synopsis or a sample paragraph (or stanza) online the day before so if anyone online wants the book they can call dibs before it Yes, this could turn my personal loss into a collective gain! What's not to love about this idea?

Umm . . . what about all that postage?

Oh, yeah. Crap. It would cost me an arm & a leg to downsize that way. Not all at once, maybe a knuckle or toenail at a time, but still, it's money I do not have. Books I have; money--not so much.

And then I thought about the internet, and Facebook and Goodreads and Paypal and all the readers and writers I'm linked to, and you know what? It doesn't sound that crazy to me. It could actually work. If someone really wants the book and she doesn't live close enough to nab it from my front stoop, surely it's worth the price of shipping. Media Mail is pretty cheap.

So how about it? I can post this weekend's victim--err, selection--on Friday at, say, midnight (Pennsylvania time) and the first person to claim it can reimburse me for shipping once it gets to wherever it's going. If no one wants it, I'll set it on the stoop come Monday morning.

I'm going to give this a whirl. And I'm counting on all you interconnected cyber-readers out there to help make this work. I'll post the first giveaway at midnight & cross-post on Facebook, just to get us started. Let's do this!

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