CONFESSIONS OF A COMPULSIVE BIBLIOPHILE
by Ruth Minshull
There’s an old joke about the guy who went to a psychiatrist and when the doctor asked him “What’s the problem?” the man said, “Well, I’m very fond of pancakes.”
“That’s not so bad,” the psychiatrist replied, “I’m fond of pancakes myself.”
“Oh really?” said the man, “I keep mine in a trunk. Where do you keep yours?”
Well, I like books. I don’t keep them in a trunk, but you’ll find then just about everywhere else in my house. If people scanned over all the volumes in my collection they might assume that I’m an authority on several subjects, if not a complete genius. But then, they’d be assuming that I had read every one of the books. I haven’t.
I have a strange affliction: I must own books. They’re irresistible to me. But I don’t always finish reading them. At this very moment I have seven half-read books beside my bed. I want to finish them all–at least I think I do–but I don’t know if I will. Such books usually get moved away to make room for new arrivals. This starts them on a slow migration to the living room book shelves where they join the dozens of brethren who met the same fate.
I have diet books, probably six or seven, and countless health books. If I finished reading them all I’d probably qualify for an MD. At the very least I should learn the secret to eternal youth.
There’s no doubt I would have been a master jeweler if I had absorbed the information in all of the jewelry-making books I used to own.
I have books on writing and marketing of everything from fillers to romances. I own 4 dictionaries, 2 slang dictionaries, two thesauri, 3 usage dictionaries, 3 spelling dictionaries and several books of quotations.
There are a number of tomes that promise the secret of making a fortune. Now, you can tell that I haven’t finished those–or else someone was lying.
There are business books. There’s one for inventors and one that tells how to obtain a patent. I have a book containing nothing but letterheads. Why I’m no longer sure.
There are at least a dozen art books–many are third and 4th generation. Other art books have come and gone before as my interest in the subject waxed and waned. There are books on art treasures, the works of various painters, how to do oil paintings, pastels, watercolors, cartoons and graphic arts. Even an art clip book and one full of decorative borders. There’s a book of African masks, another of symbols.
At least I’ve cut down on the gardening books, although I still have a few. This makes sense, since I have no place to grow a garden. Actually I’ve never had a place to grow a garden.
I have a complete set of craft books which I’ve never opened at all. There’s half a set of encyclopedia of home repair. There are books on birds, animals, plants, flowers, cats and much more.
I’d like to get rid of some of them (surely Letterheads could go?) but I’m afraid my interest may loop around and come back to a given subject and I’ll desperately need them.
The whole thing–this collection of unread books–is not logical. It’s not practical and it’s certainly not economical.
But I think I have one of those diseases–you know–like the druggies and alcoholics have. Or maybe my mother spanked me with a book when I was a child.
Obviously it’s not my fault.
Anyway, I don’t have a single pancake stashed away.
© Ruth Minshull 2013