Affinities: Arranging One’s Books, No. 2 (Robert Seydel)

Affinities, Arranging One's Books, Robert Seydel

August 17th, 2011

I walk with a library at my ear.

 

—from “Flowers & Formulas” in BOOK OF RUTH by Robert Seydel

 

Artist and writer Robert Seydel, author of the Book of Ruth (Siglio, 2011), lived in Amherst, Massachusetts just around the corner from the Emily Dickinson house. Like her (and he revered her), he was reclusive and spent his time reading and working, both as natural and necessary as eating. His three-room apartment was on the first floor of an old house, and it was brimming with thousands upon thousands of books. His library was a marvel, a work of art itself. His shelves had rows of books two deep—pull out a book and there was another behind it, and there were stacks of books everywhere—on top of the fridge, next to the stove, in the closet, on every available surface. In his notebooks, he made lists of the books he was reading—twenty, thirty, forty at a time.

Here’s a list from December 12, 2008.

1. Ashes of Rings, Mary Butts
2. Terminal Curses, Stephen Barber
3. The Dairy of Vaslav Nijinsky
4. Madness & Modernism, Louis Sass
5. The Poems of A.O. Barnabooth, Valery Larbaud
6. The Diary of A.O. Barnabooth, Larbaud
7. Armed w/ Madness, Mary Butts
8. History of Madness, Michel Foucault (dropped)
9. My Wars Are Laid Away in Bks: The Life of ED, Alfred Habegger
10. Joan Miro: Painting & Anti-Painting, 1927-1933, Anne Umland
11. Tales & Sketches, Library of America ed., Nathaniel Hawthorne
12. In the Hand of the Holy Spirit: The Visionary Art of J.B. Murray, Mary Padgelek
13. Jess: A Grand Collage, 1951-1993, Michael Auping
14. The Figure of Beatrice, Charles Williams
15. From Altar to Chimney-piece, Mary Butts
16. The Autobiography of Charles Darwin
17. A Tall, Serious Girl, George Stanley
18. The Macedonian, Mary Butts
19. Wallace Stevens: Collected Poetry & Prose (LOA edition)
20. Other Traditions, John Ashbery
21. Letters of Wallace Stevens
22. The Singing Creek Where the Willows Grow, Opal Whiteley/Hoff
23. Young Robert Duncan, Ekbert Fass (dropped)
24. The Rd to Xanadu, John Livingston Lowes
25. The Crystal Cabinet, Mary Butts
26. The Reluctant Mr. Darwin, David Quammen
27. St Francis of Assisi, G.K. Chesterton
28. Windows Walls Yards Ways, Larry Eigner
29. My Unwritten Bks, George Steiner
30. The Enchantress of Florence, Salman Rushdie
31. The Posthuman Dada Guide, Andrei Codrescu
32. New Goose, Lorine Niedecker (again)
33. The Quest for Corvo, A.J.A Symons (again)-(dropped previously)
34. New Collected Poems, George Oppen
35. Erwin Blumenfeld: Dada Montages, 1916-1933, Helen Adkins
36. Borrowed Love Poems, John Yau
37. Hadrian the Seventh, Fr. Rolfe

The following images are from a “library portrait” of Robert made by his friend, the artist Richard Kraft. They are included in a booklet published by Siglio in the most recent edition of ephemera. (Double-click to see an enlarged view of each image in which many of the book spines are legible.)

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