Melvil Dewey’s Odditorium

The Dewey Decimal System can be a cruel mistress. She promises to organize knowledge into nice neat sets of 10 and create a world of order and method. For the most part she succeeds. But oh those exceptions. They are enough to drive a certain type of highly organized personality, aka pretty much anyone who works in a library, a little bit mad.

Take fiction anthologies for instance. Here at EPL, if a series of short stories is written by one author the book is located in the fiction section by the author’s last name on the first floor. If, however, a tome has the audacity to have works by different authors between the covers, it is banished to the 800s at the back of the second floor. An outrage you say? I heartily agree.

To make things right, why not check out a few great recent anthologies that are worth rescuing from their Dewey enforced obscurity. Be warned though, it’s as if these books have sensed their shunned status and no longer care for the mainstream. They seem to have taken a turn for the odd, quirky and slightly disturbing.

The Weird: A Compendium of Dark and Strange Stories is as you might expect, pretty weird.  But it is a good weird. These aren’t stories of monsters and elves; they are more concerned with the hazy boundary between what is normal and what isn’t. The authors are an eclectic bunch (including the likes of Haruki Murakami, Franz Kafka and Stephen King) but they are all willing to push the envelope of reality. It is a large collection, clocking in at 1126 pages, but there is no need to read it cover to cover. Find a story that sounds intriguing and see where it leads.

As the cover might suggest, The Big Book of Adventure Stories is a visit to a somewhat foreign literary landscape from the past. While it might seem peculiar to modern tastes, the stories in this volume are chock full of tales of derring do, I believe that is still a word, where obstacles are faced and overcome with bravado. Featuring a cast of authors both famous and obscure, this title is anything but dull with intriguing story groupings such as: Megalomania Rules, Man Vs. Nature, Something Feels Funny, and Future Shock.

There are plenty of horror story anthologies but House of Fear stands out for the architectural setting of the stories contained within: the haunted house. Don’t expect a set of classic stories set in dilapidated Victorian mansions with creaky floorboards and door hinges in need of oil. Instead, the authors experiment with ideas and spaces that push the genre in unexpected directions while retaining the creepiness and unrelenting dread of a horror tale.

Much like the T-Virus in Raccoon City, the zombie story continues to spread and mutate at a seemingly unstoppable rate. If you are one of the infected, you will definitely want to sample some of the newest anthologies. 21st Century Dead: A Zombie Anthology lurches into the future with stories from an eclectic group of writers including Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter and the renowned Orson Scott Card. The New Dead also updates the genre and even incorporates social media in the story “Twittering from the Circus of the Dead” by Joe Hill. If you still aren’t sated, check out The Living Dead 2 which has even more stories of brains and mayhem.

So the next time you visit the library, do something unexpected. After checking out the well placed popular materials, stroll on up to the 2nd floor and see what the freaks and geeks of the 800s have to offer.

Richard

One thought on “Melvil Dewey’s Odditorium

  1. As a cataloger I completely agree that the DDC is often confusing! Sometimes it’s something I will ignore completely in the hopes of organizing our kids’ collections in a way that will allow them to easily find what they need. Case in point: in the kids’ collections, all fictional anthologies are always classified as fiction and shelved by title. I understand why the adult books are done differently but I would love it if more folks could discover the great anthologies we have!

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