On the Dewey Decimal System

Jeanette Winterson, in her memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (which is, in some ways, a retelling of her 1990 novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit) remembers a librarian she was fond of while coming of age in the south of the north of England in the 1970s:

The librarian was explaining the benefits of the Dewey decimal system to her junior – benefits that extended to every area of life. It was orderly, like the universe. It had logic. It was dependable. Using it allowed a kind of moral uplift, as one’s own chaos was also brought under control.

“Whenever I am troubled,” said the librarian, “I think about the Dewey decimal system.”

“Then what happens?” asked the junior, rather overawed.

“Then I understand that trouble is just something that has been filed in the wrong place.”

And later:

“Who was Gertrude Stein?”

“A modernist. She wrote without regard to meaning.”

“Is that why she is under Humour, like Spike Milligan?”

“Within the Dewey decimal system there is a certain amount of discretion.”

From Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson (published 2011).

Advertisements
Published in: on April 8, 2013 at 8:51 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: ,

Callaghan on Gertrude Stein

Morley Callaghan, on Gertrude Stein:

I no longer had any curiosity about the grand lady. If Scott (Fitzgerald) was interested in Miss Stein, he could have her. For my part, she had written one good book, Three Lives. Having waded through The Making of Americans, and those stories of hers like “As a Wife as a Cow: A Love Story,” I had done a little brooding over her. Abstract prose was nonsense. The shrewd lady had found a trick, just as the naughty Dadaists had once found a trick. The plain truth was, as I saw it, Gertrude Stein had nothing whatever to say.

From That Summer in Paris, by Morley Callaghan, published 1963.

Published in: on June 5, 2010 at 3:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,