Shelf Esteem is a weekly measure of the books on the shelves of writers, editors, and other word lovers, as told to Emily M. Keeler. This week’s shelf belongs to Liz Worth, whose first novel, Post Apoc, came out earlier this year. Worth’s books are in her sunny East Toronto apartment, which she shares with her friendly (and talkative!) cat, Plum. Being on a bit of an X-Files kick recently, I was thrilled to see DVDs of the series on her coffee table—all the more so when I realized that the show was the perfect jumping off point for discussing Worth’s library.
I watched The X-Files growing up, and my boyfriend had never seen them, so we’re watching them now. It’s funny, some of the episodes I remember being in love with, when I watch them now they’re not that good. But … David Duchovny is so attractive that I really don’t care. It’s always the same thing, regardless of what happens, Scully’s always the skeptic. It doesn’t matter what happens to her or what she sees. It’s kind of a ridiculous show, actually. But some of the things they show … they clearly did a lot of research, I can tell. With certain plotlines they know what they’re doing; I’ve read about or have books about some of the same stuff, and I’m like, Okay, that’s true, people do believe that. They put some effort into it, but it’s so flawed at the same time.
I don’t have a system for my books. I keep a lot of occult-y stuff up here. This one my boyfriend brought back from Scotland for me in the spring. Mastering Witchcraft. He thought it was really cool because whoever had it before drew these weird magic symbols inside, and he thought I’d be extra excited about that. Which I was. I don’t know what they mean, I would really like to find out. Some of them look like astrology symbols.
I keep this area for a lot of my Tarot stuff, and more of these kinds of magic and occult books specifically. But I also collect Ouija boards. I started collecting them a couple years ago, but I’ve always been really into Ouija boards. When I was a kid, I was really interested in ghosts and the supernatural, and I wanted a Ouija board so badly. One of my friends got me one for my birthday when I was 12. We used to play with it in my basement. But then one day while we were playing with it, the toilet flushed by itself. There was no one else around! And then my friends weren’t into it anymore, which is understandable. We also found a board that had been left in a house that someone moved out of one summer. No one moved in for months and months and months. It was summertime and we were kids, so we were like, Okay, let’s go in the house. There was a Ouija board in the house that had been left behind, and it ended up with me. I lived with it for a couple years but it made me really paranoid. It used to be in my closet, and then I put it in the basement. But whenever I was in the basement I felt like something was behind me, so I got rid of it. It was such a creepy feeling, and probably just in my head. Nothing actually happened, but there was probably a reason that the board was the only thing left in the house. It was a horror movie waiting to happen.
This was my first bookshelf. Some of these books I’ve had for just as long, and they’ve kind of always lived on this shelf. I like to respect that. Like, my Poppy Z. Brite books. I think everybody does this—you buy books, collect them even, and then add them to whichever shelf you can. So these have been on this shelf for a really long time, and other books by the same authors are on different shelves. These are the ones that move with me wherever I go. Some of them are really important to me. Like, this Bauhaus one was the first band biography I’d ever purchased, or read. Now I read way too many band bios, but that was the one that started it all. I have to hang on to it! I still love Bauhaus, but in high school they were one of my favourite bands.
This collage is all from when I was writing the novel. People would give me feedback and I’d put the notes up on the wall. Some of them—like, you see Natalie there? That’s Natalie Zina Walschots, who gave me some great feedback. And there were some other things I stuck up there. I was working mostly at this desk for the novel, but now with my new writing I work mostly on that table over there. So I’m not sure if I’ll have notes on that wall, or what will happen.
I have some Choose Your Own Adventure books. There’s an awesome GI Joe one. So good. And The Horror of High Ridge. That one’s really frustrating because I keep dying every time I read it. I haven’t figured out how to beat the book yet. I don’t know if that’s the point of Choose Your Own Adventure, but I feel like it’s a kind of video game that you don’t actually play. As a writer, I think it’s good to read different kinds of things all the time.
I love that they’re all written in second person, because you don’t usually read a lot of books in second person. And they’re quite challenging to think about in terms of how they’re structured. In this nerdy, or more serious kind of way—even though they’re really fun, they’d be incredibly challenging to write because you have to keep coming up with all these scenarios and they have to work together. These books are also really intense, I find, having gone back to read them as an adult. They’re very violent! Your friends will get beheaded, or you’ll die. They’re quite graphic.
I have this Piercing the Darkness book, which I really like. I’ve read it twice. Katherine Ramsland did this whole study of people who live as vampires. She interviewed people who identified as vampires, whether they actually drink blood or think of themselves as psychic vampires. She followed different scenes—some of these people are in the goth scene, or the BDSM scene, and others aren’t at all, they lived totally outside of that. She did this whole study on people living these lifestyles. It’s really amazing and very well done. She was very fair in how she represented these people. I grew up reading Anne Rice and Poppy Z. Brite, a lot of vampire novels. So for someone to actually go and talk to people who believe themselves to be vampires is an amazing project.
This library is kind of all over the place, but I’m like that. When I’m interested in something, really interested, I’ll spend a lot of time on it. So I think everything here represents my different phases. I have a lot of books about bands, biographies. I’m really interested in people’s lives, but also fiction and poetry. I have a lot of Canadian books. Lynn Crosbie, Lisa Foad.
And Whore. Nelly Arcan was a Canadian writer. She died a couple years ago. She was a French writer, based in Montreal. This one’s very sexual, and it was very critically acclaimed. She was playing around a lot with structure. It’s unfortunate that her career was cut short. She died so young—she killed herself. This one is kind of like Little Cat. People might feel like there’s no plot, but there’s still a story there. It’s not someone bringing you through different scenes, and saying this happened and then this happened, but it’s still all tied together. It feels really cohesive, but still very loose at the same time. I love stuff like that.
Shelf Esteem runs every Tuesday.