Sunday, August 26, 2007

bibliognost, bibliolatry, biblioklept, bibliomancy, bibliophile, bibliopoesy, bibliotaph, bibliophagist, bibliopole, bibliomania, or bibliosophia?

I'm not sure that i actually fall into the category of bibliophile or bibliomaniac, although i've often called myself one. I do have a collection of over 3,000 books (there are still so many in boxes that i haven't catalogued them all) but many of them i just bought because i wanted to read them and was afraid they might go out of print before i got a chance more than because i wanted to own a valuable possession. There are a few i own because i want to OWN, or read again, and again, but i am not, for the most part, a connoisseur. In fact, "one theory holds that the defining moment occurs when a person buys a book with the prior certainty that he will never read it, though others are less cynical," i don't know that i have ever bought a book with the prior certainty that i will never read it (well, perhaps i have not intended to read it cover to cover, but definitely Needed to have it immediately at hand for reference... or felt i did...)

A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books by Nicholas A. Basbanes tops out at 638 pages (but that’s with 103 pages of notes and index so you only have to wade through 535 pages of actual text). It starts out interestingly enough, with the preface and first chapter introducing the subject at hand and giving a brief gloss over the drive to collect books. The first part of the book is devoted to the history of book collecting and is an interesting chronicle of the development of many private libraries as well. One must have a sense of history to appreciate the history of any art including that of book and printmaking.

Not that the entire tome is boring, exactly, or i don't think i would read the entire thing, it's just that occasionally i would find myself at the end of the paragraph without any idea of what it said (do you ever do that? it's one thing when you're listening to some windbag go on and on or watching t.v. or something along those lines, but when you are reading, which is, in a sense, an active activity, and realize your mind is drifting... But in this case, it seems to be a rather orgasmic experience {just so i have your attention...} but more than that, perhaps i am a bibliophilliac after all, just reading about book collections, and book auctions, and books, well you know, some things do it for some of us, and many things do it for some of us [librarians are a sexual fantasy stereotype after all]and what is it about orgasm that seems to wake women up and make men drowsy? Is it just a satisfaction thing, or some kind of evolutionary adaptation to ensure pregnancy and species diversion?]). Okay, back to the subject at hand...

I found the second part of the book to be a bit more intriguing as it provided more intimate sketches of the bibliomanes themselves (perhaps this was necessitated by the times~Basbanes only had interview access to live subjects, after all). An entire chapter is devoted to Stephen C. Blumberg, the biblioklept who stole from rare book collections of libraries across the country to amass his own reference collection (which he always considered his own personal ILL system~he was saving the libraries from themselves, really...)

Instead of admiration or even a sense of having found kindred spirits in this book, i found myself wanting to clear out many of my own processions which have become too numerous and cumbersome. One of my biggest fears is that i will die leaving a pile of crap that my niece and nephews will have to sort through for me. Even at my current rate of about 150 titles per year can i really read all of the books i own that i have not yet read (and with new ones constantly appearing do i really want to?) And what IS the point of ownership anyway? I've always had a need to hold on to things, as if i can hold on to people and to history and to all the feelings attached to them if i can just hold that thing in my hand. Poppycock! One of my purposes in blogging the books i read is to try and hold on to the memories of what i felt when reading so do i really need those pages?

Perhaps much of this is brought about by the fact that i have come to the sudden realization that i am in desperate need of about $7,000 like, yesterday (just to bring my bills current, mind you, to keep the creditors from repossessing my cats and the blood in my veins~hey, maybe that wouldn't be such a bad thing, if they could just replace it with some fresh, healthy, non-migrainey blood...because i have absolutely nothing of value) Maybe it's also just brought on by the fact that i'm tired of having so much damn stuff, and having to walk over, move it around, or plow through it constantly.

"Night after night I have spent carting down two flights of stairs more books than I ever thought I possessed. Journey after journey, as monotonously regular as the progresses of a train round the Inner Circles; upstairs empty-handed, and downstairs creeping with a decrepit crouch, a tall, crazy, dangerously bulging column of books wedged between my two hands and the indomitable point of my chin. the job simply has to be done; once it is started there is no escape from it; but at times during the process one hates books as the slaves who built the Pyramids must have hated public monuments. A strong and bitter bone-sickness floods one's soul. How ignominious to be strapped to this ponderous mass of paper, print, and dead men's sentiments! Would it not be better, finer, braver, to leave the rubbish where it lies and walk out into the world a free, untrammelled, illiterate Superman?"

~Solomon Eagle, Moving a Library

I won't even mention those multiple cross-country moves (even the cross-town moves are bad enough). Time to lighten up... While i'm still in the mood, but how?



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