Thursday, 5 July 2012

I'm A Bibliomaniac But I Like It (I Think).

A wise man once said to me: ‘The trouble with being a biblio-junkie is that you end up with a lot of junk.’  As I look around my study and the sitting room and the lounge and the bedroom and the garage I can see the truth of this.  For me, every book is a prisoner.  I stand in heart-felt shame before colleagues who have said to me in that infuriatingly comfortable-in-their-own-skin manner: ‘A book never comes into my study without one going out.’  I know this is sensible, admirable, even noble but I just can’t do it.
There is a psychological condition known as ‘bibliomania’, compulsive book buying,  and I have often wondered if I am a suitable case for treatment.   I mean, what is it all about?  Are you building a paper wall against the world?  Do you have a wish to disappear within the covers?  Is this just another symptom of the need to accumulate ‘things’?  I’ll leave that to the psycho-therapists although they would probably run a mile if  they saw me coming.  
The novelist Julian Barnes was writing about this in last Saturday’s Guardian (30/6/12).  It was a comforting read because I am definitely not as bad as he but I recognise some of the tendencies.  With regard to a particularly chronic period of book buying  he writes:  ‘The dividing line between books I liked, books I thought I would like, books I hoped I would like and books I didn’t like now but thought I might at some future date was rarely distinct.‘  
You and me both, Julian.  I mean, you should only buy stuff that you need or will find immediately diverting but when it comes to books, as Burns might say, we ‘tint (our) reason a’ thegether’.   And then you come to that awful moment of insight that surely comes to all biblio-junkies when you realise that in the time left to you in this life you will never read all this stuff that surrounds you.  But  as Julian says: ‘how weird it would be to have around you only as many books as you have time to read in the rest of your life.’  
As for kindles and e-books and all that stuff.  Let’s not go there.  We need the smell, the touch, the sound of a BOOK.