Or: Why the hell isn’t there a Bookaholics Anonymous group?
I have a secret. A dark, unspoken secret.
I am an addict.
My addiction is not to drugs. Cocaine will you not find in any blood panel. I enjoy a good drink, but I am not an alcoholic. I don’t even smoke very often. Yet, the truth remains. I am addicted to the rush, the ecstasy and the pleasure that is books. And I am not alone. We are all around you.
If Mister Gutenberg had only known all those centuries ago the horrors that would be unleashed in thousands of too-cramped apartments filled with the musky perfume of glue and acidy paper and heavy dust. Perhaps a cat surveys a room filled with shelves from his perch atop a stack of paperbacks in the corner. Or a dog lounges by the fire, lulled to sleep by the endless ocean waves of pages turning.
We are out there. We are everywhere. Go to any Barnes and Noble…or decently outfitted antiques district with a rare books store. You’ll find us there.
My apartment is on the second floor of my building, at the top of a single, steep run of stairs. When I moved in, my floors were level. They didn’t squeak. Now, walking through my apartment, you’re confronted by two immediate impressions:
– You are surrounded by books. Every surface, every table, every corner. Names like Coelho and Patchett intermingle with those godfathers of literati – Dickens and Melville and Hemingway. And more than a few dead Irish guys.
– The floor is sinking. The weight of the books and their shelf-homes has had a palpable welling effect on the floors, which now squeal with each step.
Despite a shocking “library value” according to the handily packaged “My Library” iPhone app, (pushing $22,000. If only I could liquify this asset!), I’m unapologetic. These books are my friends. I’m comforted by the pink binding of a recently gifted “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” sandwiched between a Hemingway biography (one of four I own) and the pulpit bible from a previous lifetime. I know just where to find that first edition of Ann Patchett’s “Bel Canto” (between “The Magician’s Assistant” and Thomas Cobb’s “Crazy Heart”). And I can tell you immediately if one of the girls wanders off with my copy of “The Great Gatsby” or “The Complete Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay.”
My library is one of the chief deterrents to relocation; moving more than a thousand books down the stairs, then into a new place, unpacking them and returning them to their assign slots on the 200 board-feet of shelves lining the study…and the hall…and part of the living room…and the bedroom. That’s just the ‘stationary’ library. We aren’t going to talk about my iPhone’s Kindle app…or iBooks. Or the PDFs sitting in my inbox. That extra six pounds in the backpack? My close friends can all count on one hand the number of times they’ve seen me without at least one book in my hand. Yes, I’m addicted and proud of it.
Just know this, all of you normal, non-book types: if ever the bibliophiles unite in uprising, we will have the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Job on our side. But rest peacefully, for rare is the issue to rise us from that over-stuffed chair, where we bask in the pool of light cast by a good reading lamp and imagine ourselves tanning from that light reflected up and yellowed by the pages spread on our laps.