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“And the books she read, and the books that she said she read…”

Posted by on November 4, 2006

“She herself was a victim of that lust for books which rages in the breast like a demon, and which cannot be stilled save by the frequent and plentiful acquisition of books. This passion is more common, and more powerful, than most people suppose. Book lovers are thought by unbookish people to be gentle and unworldly, and perhaps a few of them are so. But there are others who will lie and scheme and steal to get books as wildly and unconscionably as the dope-taker in pursuit of his drug. They may not want the books to read immediately, or at all; they want them to possess, to range on their shelves, to have at command. They want books as a Turk is thought to want concubines — not to be hastily deflowered, but to be kept at their master’s call, and enjoyed more often in thought than in reality.”

– Robertson Davies, Tempest-Tost

“Hoarding books is unfair to everybody. In fairness to all Book Sale participants:

-No blankets, sheets or any other coverings are allowed.

-You cannot have more than one hundred books or five boxes of books under your control at any given time without purchasing them.

-Anyone caught stashing or hiding books will be expelled.”

-SF Library Book Sale Instructions

“Books are trophies.”


I’ve rearranged my books again. Reference books have their own shelf now, separate from the other non-fiction. In having a whole shelf and a half dedicated to non-novels, I’ve become a more serious, better-educated person in a way I wasn’t when I had merely read these books.

In High Fidelity, the main character organizes his record collection autobiographically. (“If I want to find the song “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac I have to remember that I bought it for someone in the fall of 1983 pile but I didn’t give it to them for personal reasons.”) One day, when I’m old and cantankerous and my library takes up more space than my furniture or grandchildren, I will organize things this way, beginning with Little House on the Prairie and ending with my back copies of Octogenarian Today. When I die and my library is dismantled, probably no one will care why a spurt of Jonathan Carroll novels is followed by a Vienna guidebook, but at least as my life dissolves out onto other bookshelves it will disappear linearly — childhood, adolescence, adulthood — like the better sorts of plots.

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