Saturday, April 26, 2014

How I know I am not alone in my fetish for books-2

[Though] I read at least a hundred books a year, and often twice that number, I always end up on New Year's Eve feeling I have accomplished nothing.


I have never squandered an opportunity to read. There are only twenty-four hours in the day, seven of which are spent sleeping, and in my view at least four of the remaining seventeen must be devoted to reading.

Of course, four hours a day does not provide me with nearly enough time to satisfy my appetites. A friend once told me that the real message Bram Stoker sought to convey in Dracula is that a human being needs to live hundreds and hundreds of years to get all his reading done; that Count Dracula, misunderstood bookworm, was draining blood from the porcelain-like necks of ten thousand hapless virgins not because he was the apotheosis of evil but because it was the only way he could live long enough to polish off his reading list.

If it were possible, I would read books eight to ten hours a day, every day of the year. Perhaps more. There is nothing I would rather do than read books. This is the way I have felt since I started borrowing books from a roving bookmobile at the tender age of seven. In the words of Fran├žois Rabelais: I was born this way.


Until recently, I was not aware of how completely books dominate my physical existence.

Only when I started cataloguing my possessions did I realize that there are books in every room in my house, save for the bathrooms, and books in all three rooms in my office suite. ... Books are in my line of vision at all hours of the day and night.


With few exceptions, I write my name, the date of the purchase, and the city where the book was purchased on the inside flap of my books. If I have not written my name inside, it is because I have already decided that the book is not worth keeping.


I do not accept reading tips from strangers, especially from indecisive men whose shirt collars are a dramatically different colour from the main portion of the garment. I am particularly averse to being lent or given books by people I may like personally but whose taste in literature I have reason to suspect, and perhaps even fear.

I dread that awkward moment when a friend hands you the book that changed his or her life, and it is a book that you have despised since you were fourteen. People fixated on a particular book cannot get it through their heads that, no matter how much this book might mean to them, it is impossible to make someone else enjoy A Fan's Notes or The Sot-Weed Factor or The Little Prince or Dune, much less One Thousand and One Places You Must Visit Before You Meet the Six People You Would Least Expect to Bump into Heaven. Impossible. Not without assistance from the Stasi.

— From "Great Expectations", one of eight essays written by American journalist, critic, and essayist Joe Queenan and collected in One for the Books. (By the way, I am also the proud possessor of another of Queenan's marvellous collections, Confessions of a Cineplex Heckler.)

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