This from the SMH last weekend (the Saturday SMH is the only newspaper I buy anymore, for the occasional nugget like this, but their review section is becoming so dire I may give up on newspapers altogether):
“My memory bank is not my brain: its my book collection. I can’t do without it. When I had my books in packaging for six months, I got dumber. I wasn’t running up against them, I wasn’t exposed to them, I forgot things. As soon as I saw them on the shelf I remembered them; it comes flooding back and I will often go to my collection and hold them.”
John Purcell, director of books (what a title) at Booktopia. SMH 6/10/18 p28
Not precisely accurate, but it rings so true. A chunk of my personal collection is about to arrive home, and I have been making space for it afresh, ready for my old friends to be reunited with each other, and with me.
I am extremely privileged that I grew up a two minute walk from a public library. I read so many of the books there. My life would have been far poorer for its absence, and even these decades removed, would have remained irreparably impoverished. But when I started to earn money, I started to buy books, and have never stopped. I maintain, despite my culture (my words are chosen carefully here), that it is a vice superior to tobacco and alcohol. The public library, a very important institution, will never be my own collection, my own cultivated “set”. My books reflect me, the times I have lived through, my changing tastes and interests, my growth, my passions, my follies. Though I have in (very) recent years learned to part with books, I will never have the ruthless instinct required of the public librarian, to shed and dispose.
It is now possible for me to sometimes walk out of a book store without a purchase tucked under my arm. This is a new stage of development, and a welcome one for my wife, who has after some decades decreed an absolute limit on bookshelf space in our home. But I cannot promise my wife (a librarian!) that under cover of darkness, while the house sleeps, that I won’t creep online. Having snuck onto the internet, I confess there is the chance that I may enter into my browser the names of the very titles I lingered over that afternoon in the shop, that I so unwillingly replaced onto the shelves. And perhaps a week or two later, a brown cardboard parcel will arrive, and if I don’t get to the letterbox first, eyebrows will be raised. It is a testament to the ability of the human mind to hold onto vast inconsistencies in thought and behaviour that I am able to continue to wander the world, somehow convinced that my virtue is intact.