Since Holy Week, up here in the High Doganate, we have been doing the most ambitious spring cleaning that we can recall ever having done, voluntarily. I say “we,” but I got no help at all from Bodo and Katrina (the pigeon couple I mentioned last week), my purpled finches have been absent without leave, and the fluffy cat (“Mildred”) who sometimes lodges here for vacations has stayed well away. (She is invaluable for dusting those hard-to-reach corners.)

Now, the High Doganate isn’t large: 600 square feet, including the balconata, where the plurality of its inhabitants seem to live. (A big infusion of illegal-immigrant mayflies recently; then the Trump spiders came to round them up.) Which is to say, just less than the seventieth part of an acre.

I know a couple who occupy 30 acres, at least one of which must be indoors, and they never complain about upkeep, so what am I?

One of nature’s whiners, I’m afraid.

Another friend, who has just moved as far away from Washington as he could get, consistent with keeping a job there, reports that he has also been shifting “mountains of books,” some of which he admits exist in two or more copies. His wife will surely have noted this fact.

Women, in my experience, hate books — they see them for what they are, a dusting nightmare — and I could back this assertion with innumerable anecdotes. Instead of a wife, I now have a French paintbrush — the wall variety, in badger hair — which has proved just the thing for cleaning the top edges. (The old practice of gilding the top edges of books made perfect sense: it prevents grime from working into the naked pages.) If women only knew this, so many marriages could be saved.

I have been accused of “book collecting,” but there is no truth in this. They merely accumulate, of their own free will. Indeed, while installing a few new bookcases, which necessitated the juggling of several old (and bookcases are hard to juggle, believe me), I was able to identify several hundred works that could be “recirculated.” Gentle reader may be shocked to learn that my principle parodies that of the abortionists: “Every book a wanted book.” Another principle is to avoid having them pile up on floors, which creates physical obstructions to peripatetic philosophizing.

From previous exercises in librarianship, I have found that one comes down in the end to the same clump of six redundant tatty paperbacks, which can’t be parted with, no matter how ruthless one is feeling. These six have followed one about since adolescence. Three are little art books, providing crisp, matt, colour reproductions of, respectively: Spanish frescoes of the Romanesque period; Russian icons from the twelfth through fifteenth centuries; and, Persian miniatures from ancient manuscripts.

Two others are Penguins: Baudelaire, Selected Writings on Art and Artists; and Erich Heller, The Disinherited Mind.

Finally, Céline, Journey to the End of the Night.

Many other books entertained my youth; a few stitched hardcovers also survive, but fade into the background woodwork. These six stand out because they are so obviously disposable, and have survived every purge through the last half-century.

I stare at them, together, and realize that an entire worldview could be constructed from them, and that it was my own, in formation.