[Smashy the Hammer] [An Aspiring Luddite]
I carry no phone
An aspiring Luddite
In a wired world.
[Jeff Berry]
Jeff Berry is an early adopter of the Internet and the Web, a late adopter of Twitter, and declines to adopt Facebook. With the death of Google+, he's experimenting with federated platforms. He admins a medievalist Mastodon instance, and can found on the PlusPora diaspora pod. He hates cell-phones.

Agony of a Bibliomane
18 March 2013

Until a month or so ago, I could tell you every book that I had voluntarily gotten rid of since the age of about twelve - and before that age, I wasn't really accumulating them, so it hardly counts. It's not difficult to remember that list, since it's quite short. I straddle the line between bibliophilia and bibliomania, and am happy to do so; it's a good place to be, as long as you have shelf space.

Thus, when we realized that we were going to need to dramatically reduce our library in light of an impending trans-Atlantic move, it was traumatic. The books, thirty-plus years of accumulation, are a record of my life. They also serve, in computer terms, as an off-line backup of what I've read. For many years, I could tell if I had already read something by checking to see if it was filed on the bookshelves. (Alphabetical by author, by title within author, with subsequent titles in a series following the alphabetical first title.)

Some of these books had an enormous impact on the man I was to become. Heinlein and Tolkien have done more to shape my philosophy than any other two people in the world, excepting only my parents. The Heinlein and Tolkien parts of the library are most emphatically not going to be liquidated. Some of the Tolkien books are among the earliest entries in my library, while the Heinlein books tend to be a bit later - not, however, because I read them later, but because I read library copies and had to acquire them later. These are books that I return to, time and again.

This return to favorite books goes a long way toward explaining my attitude toward all the books in my collection. There are some books that I do return to, so I might return to any of them. Best I hold on to them, then. Besides, even the slightest of them had some impact on me. The ones that changed me are old friends, but even the ones that were mostly forgettable were worthy companions for a short while.

Books were, and are, my friends. Not my only friends to be sure, but friends. And like the more conventional, people-type, friends, they come in different shapes, sizes and colors and I like some of them better than others. This physicality of books is part of their appeal to me. There is a solidity to a book which makes it real; it is a thing. Ebooks have their advantages, to be sure, but they have no substance. Memories of books are associated, to some extent, with objects. I did not simply read "The Fellowship of the Ring." I read this copy of it, and that copy of it, the weight of it, the size of it, the colors of the dust jacket, cover and interior, the place where I tore the fold-out map - all of this and more - are part of my experience of reading that book. Reading a book is both a textual and an extra-textual experience.

Not all books have that resonance, of course, and, pain me though it does, many of the paperbacks will have to go. Many already have. I can no longer tell you all of the books I've voluntarily gotten rid of, and I feel obscurely diminished by that. I have phantom library syndrome; something will remind me of a book, and I can no longer simply place my hand on it. These books are my history, and the historian in me feels their lack.

I'm not letting it stop me from moving and getting on with life, though. Anyone need some paperback fiction? Free to a good home ...

(For the record the books were: a horrid fantasy trilogy whose name I have blessedly purged from my memory; the fifty-odd Mack Bolan, The Executioner, books that one summer a friend and I bought used, read, and then returned for store credit on books we actually wanted; and the first thirteen Gor novels.)
© 2013 Jeff Berry
The Aspiring Luddite