TOWER GROVE — Evidence of my problem is all over the office, and the movers unwillingness to schlep it up there should have been the first clue.
When we moved into the house more than 10 years ago, the fine folks helping us transport our furniture and clothes and doodads from the apartment stopped at the bottom step when it came to carrying 42 boxes of books up to the tree house, the name for the office on the third floor. I carried them up myself in as close to 21 trips as their weight would allow. Labor didn’t teach me the lesson. I kept buying books. I buy them as souvenirs from bookstores around the world, from the bookstore near Charing Cross or in Pirate’s Alley in that little re-purposed military shelter in Malta. I buy them on Amazon.com because it’s a good deal or it will arrive the day it goes on sale (a miracle of modern post!). I buy them downtown when I’ve read a good review in The New York Times or elsewhere. Some shelves are double-stuffed with books, and pillars of my problem have grown in front of those bookshelves, some stacked 32 paperbacks high. I’ve bought and been given so many books that movers would again leave the moving to me — and 21 trips won’t make a dent this time.
My name is Derrick. I’m a bibliophiliac.
So, I’ve made a New Year’s resolution.
No more books. No more impulse buys. No more killing time in the stacks at a bookstore only to leave with the latest hardbound. No more … Well, there have to be some exceptions. Tom Wolfe’s new book (if it actually comes out) and Mark Leyner’s The Sugar Frosted Nutsack get the favorite author and great title exemptions. Books for need work can’t be ignored. Books by a few authors have to sneak through the resolution. Books pre-ordered before Jan. 1, 2012 despite the fact they won’t be released for another several months … OK, OK. I know. I know. Yes, I’m guilty of a preemptive strike or two against the resolution.
The reason this resolution is necessary is not just because of the money and space it will save, but of the awful habit it must end. My reading cannot keep up with my acquiring, and that has created a library of half-finished books. It’s hard to find a book that I haven’t at least taken a nibble out of, but more and more I plunge into a new book only to abandon it later for the new model, the latest sensation. I see where this is going … moving on. Bookmarks mark the trail of abandoned plots. Oh, I finish plenty. Polished off a few in the past week. But I’m also a serial dabbler and a quick look of the shelves within my reach gives a sense of my hummingbird reading. Where I found bookmarks in nearby books:
Fear and Loathing at Rolling Stone … just arrived, just started
The Glory Barons (about the Edmonton Oilers) … pg. 186
Sex on the Moon … pg. 92
Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw … pg. 253
The Diviners (paperback) … pg. 443
The Diviners (hardback) … pg. 61
The Know-It-All … pg. 61, or “K”, with a Joker card as bookmark.
Those Guys Have All the Fun … pg. 193
Micro … pg. 167, and set to be tonight’s choice
Swamplandia! … pg. 78, and packed for trip
One Day … pg. 43
Game of Thrones … pg. 660
Sucker’s Progress … multiple bookmarks.
That last book is by Herbert Asbury, the author of Gangs of New York, and while it appears to be about the rise of gambling in America it serves as a fitting example of my issue. I can’t even tell how much progress I made in the book because who knows how long ago I left any of the bookmarks in there. Sucker. Writing that list should at least shame me into a good month of staying true to this resolution.
The goal of this resolution is to finish these forgotten books and move steadily through the sediment of novels and biographies that has collected in my office. Why visit the bookstore when I’ve already moved it up two flights of stairs.
So, I resolve not to buy any more books — with some exceptions (see the fine print) — until I’ve made a dent into the books I have.
Now, if you’ll excuse me I have some reading to do.
And, Amazon.com is taunting me from another tab. Stay strong. Stay strong.