I have a lot of books. I’m not an extreme book collector but I like them; I like to have them around. Every once in a while I look at my groaning shelves and think something must be done. I carefully develop a set of rules for what will let me get rid of a book — one can’t just arbitrarily throw them away! — and then examine each one. Not read in ten years is a good rule. Or the science is outdated. Or…
This can take a couple of days. By the end of the process I will have identified between 10 and 30 books (depending how ruthless I’m being) which I set aside in a pile for my wife to look at to see if she wants to keep any of them (I’m always hoping she’ll want to keep them all). The remaining ones get re-homed. These days, it means they go down to the lending library in our condo. If I’m lucky, I don’t immediately see books that I want for myself and bring them home. The last time I did bring one home I realized it was one I had put there myself.
Lately, it has gotten harder and harder to cull the pile. The reason? I know too damn many writers. Writers who write books. Books that they sell or give to me. Books that they sign for me. Giving those away would seem like a betrayal.
Foolishly I go to writing events, book fairs, readings, conventions, festivals. I meet more writers. I talk to them. We become friends. I buy their books. You can see where this is leading.
Eventually, every book in my library will have been written by someone who is my friend. I’ll then have to divide them into close friends, casual friends, acquaintances, and one-event stands. It will become a little tacky. My brief flings will be the first to go, I suppose. Yet, what if it was a writer of exceptional beauty, whose language was both shapely and sensuous. Can I discard their book just because we only spent one evening together?
Maybe there is another solution. I could go live in a cave. It would have to be a big cave in a dry climate to hold all my books but living in a cave might prevent me from being in contact with other writers — they tend to aggregate in coffee shops. Most caves aren’t near coffee shops.
Avoid meeting new writers! That’s the solution. No new writers — no new books. But…
Maybe the cave thing won’t work. Some writers are explorers. They might wind up coming to my cave. With their books.
Oh, well, I’ll decide tomorrow. After I go to the Chiarscuro reading series tonight. Where I’ll try not to meet any writers or buy any books. Sigh.
And that’s ten minutes.