You KNOW these types of people: always checking to make sure you put the comma between Washington and D.C. and packing small postal scales wherever they go to check the weight of that quarter-pound cheeseburger they just bought. Some try to use this mania for good, forming mobile hit squads to put apostrophes where they belong in store signs and some of them lurk in corners waiting for some unsuspecting and otherwise worthy soul to say “The squirrels just decimated my tomatoes last year” so they can cry, “Oho! They ate one out of every ten?”
However they practice their compulsion, they do have one thing in common: they love to come to the Book Fair and help us understand how bad our book sorting is.
“Why are there books on atheism in Religion?” one demanded last year.
“Well,” we said, “Books which argue for or against the absence of religion in the world still constitutes a discussion of religion. So we put it in Religion.”
“Huh!” the person said. “You’re probably one of those people who thinks black is a color, rather than an absence of color.”
(In point of fact, the rules are different in the world of light and the world of pigment. See, in one of them, black IS a color and white the absence of color, whereas…. It’s nice when a “black is not a color” expert meets a “white is not a color expert and we can film the argument to replay for people who are wide wake in bed at 3 A.M.)
We get the same sort of argument when people wonder why we have books on Antisemitism in Judaica, or books on the evils of psychotherapy in Psychology. “These books are talking about the subject, even if they’re against it,” we say.
“Then why can’t you CALL the category Psychology and Antipsychology, the way you do with “Law and Crime’? they respond. There are those who say we’ve done the same thing with “Health and medicine”, but these are people with their own books to write. And what about “Books and Authors”, then?
We DO have a number of categories which include their opposites. For example, those books on preparing raw dishes because cooking is bad for you, will be found in cooking. People who refer to cookbooks as “recipe books” will not see anything strange about this. They’re still books of recipes. Similarly, all those books which argue that any schooling beyond basic math and reading is a waste of time because who needs to know history or music go into Education.
I suppose we shouldn’t count books which simply try to herd the sheep away from the goats. These abound in Music and Art, especially. THAT’S not Art, says one book; THIS is Art. You can’t rally call that stuff MUSIC, says this other book. This is not a complete rejection of the subject, just a matter of splitting hairs.
There are books which are deliberate collections of really bad jokes or cartoons, as well as upright citizens who have gone out of their way to print a book full of jokes they want to let us know are not, or are no longer, funny. These still go into Humor, along with the humor titles which are unintentionally unfunny. (Someday, after I have finished my research into sex books which aren’t sexy, I will print up a list of jokebooks written by people who can’t write jokes. It’s an old and honorable genre.)
I have written elsewhere of the complaints from people who find Anglo-Saxon primers in the Foreign Language section. “Anglo-Saxon is a form of English, and therefore can’t be Foreign”, they tell me. I generally mutter some Anglo-Saxon monosyllables and stomp away, but I still maintain that a language with 28 letters in its alphabet is so foreign.
I see I am running out of space, and can’t discuss the Cure Books in the LGBT section, or the Kirche, Kuche, und Kinder books in our Women section. I will only note that I have often agreed with a person I met who had never heard the term “Political Science” before. “No such thing,” he said, “what they do ain’t scientific and it ain’t polite.”