I Did a Bad Thing


I bought more books. My income is pathetic, my bookshelves overflowing, with additional stacks (multiple, mind you) of books waiting to be read at various locations around the place, some in bankers’ boxes, some just collecting dust — and that’s not to mention the crates — yes, crates — in storage, just waiting for a reader, loved but not used. My books are my treasures, be it the gilt-edged vellum copy of The Divine Comedy or the first edition volume of The Fellowship of the Ring that changed my life when I read it at age eight. So yes, more books. I can’t afford them, I can’t possibly read them; I have nineteen books checked out from the library already.

I don’t think I can read all the books I own; there are too many. Words are to me like sex — when it’s good, there’s no experience like it. And when you find an author you relate to, it’s like finding a partner. The connection can be immediate, electric, ecstatic. At its best, reading the right book is orgasmic, and I don’t think that’s an exaggeration. There have been times — reading Thoreau, Dostoevsky, Nabokov, T.S. Eliot, for instance — when the only expression of which I’m capable is “holy shit” and then put the book down. Good sex is like that — “holy shit” and then you lie back, breathless.

I have no resistance to books. When I enter a bookstore or a library, I have to be dragged away — and if I am, I consider myself lucky if I emerge with my bank account intact. When I appeared on Jeopardy! the anecdote I told was that of my ex losing me after a few hours in The Strand. I had strayed into the basement (where they house, or did then, the philosophy texts) and my ex had no idea where I’d wandered to; we had to be somewhere, and I just lost track of time. I did, however, come away with a decently-used edition of Benjamin’s Reflections

My library is my love, my passion, and I can’t resist the urge — no, the necessity — to expand it. I own over 1,000 books, know each of them by touch and feel, their location and priority on my “to read” list. I cherish them more than anything else I own (which, admittedly, is not much). My car, my wardrobe, my iPhone, my PS3, my film collection — all these I can do without. My library I cannot.

~ by Benji on July 4, 2014.

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