Alan Taylor has a grow




ing addiction. This fortnight he

makes his life an open book and reveals why he cannot shelve his problem or turn over a new leaf.

Overnight Pisa Towers ofbooks have appeared in this tiny cell to which I repair every day to string

together a sentence or two. There was a time when I could take the few steps necessary to reach my stool but

now I have to clamber over the

collapsing piles. When one teeters I find books I didn‘t know I had or I

uncover one for which I searched high and low a few weeks ago and then. despairing offinding it. wen

and bought another copy. So I have

four Treasure Islands. two sets of

Proust. doublers of most of Balzac.

Kipling. Dickens and Chandler. Dogeared paperbacks rub up lasciviously against unsullied first

editions. Not so long ago I knew all

my books as well as I know the children which is not saying muc says their mother— but now they’r

out ofcontrol. We‘ve moved house

twice in as many years to

accommodate them but after just a

year here there‘s a distinct lack of shelf-space. I‘m beginning to feel threatened. And persecuted. The walls are moving inwards. But we can‘t move again.

Besides, I like this cell. Being small

it‘s cheap to heat. It has a window,

which I always find useful ifyou want

to look out, with an uninterrupted

view of the sea. Through binoculars. I spend a lot oftime looking out. Just

now there‘s not much happening; gulls auditioning for a remake of

Hitchcock‘s Birds. someone striding out along the tow-path, a mangy dog

fertilising the football pitch. But it enough for an empty head to be

going on with. There are times when I feel intimidated by all these words

around me. Who am I. I ask mysel to add to them? Ofcourse, to anticipate the question everyone

asks, I haven’t read them all. What

would be the point of that? I give them houseroom because I might need them some day. I say that to

convince myself but will I ever want

to read a life of Strindberg or The

Well- Tempered Garden? You never


Occasionally I do sell books but that‘s unusual and painful. For I have adopted unquestioningly Powell's dictum that ‘Books Do Furnish a Room'. Rooms without books are like pubs without beer. My ideal house would have every inch of wall shelved. For that you need a lot of books and I add daily to my library. I used to spend Saturday afternoons on book quests. odysseys t which always began in McNaughtan‘s basement in Elm Row where the light was so dim you had to go to the door to examine potential purchases. From there via the Windsor Buffet to Grants and others in Dundas Street then across town to the High Street and up to the West Port before hoofing it to the h labyrinthine shop in the Grange for a e late afternoon browse and a pint in Leslie‘s. There have been times when I wanted a book so badly that I shook with excitement. knowing that if I bought it I would have to live on baked beans for a week.

I was, am. a bookaholic. Like the hero of Canetti’s Auto-Da-Fe I had a spell ofonly going near bookshops when they were closed. to put temptation out of reach. All my talk was of books and writers and it was inconceivable to go out with a girl who was not book daft. But I was never quite as bad as Charlie who before he asked anyone out conducted a quiz to ensure he hadn‘t landed himselfwith an illiterate. In the middle of a discotheque this was ‘s not always easy.

Madness is a very real danger for the bookaholic. Some nights I lie in bed thinking of all the books waiting f. to be read and I break out in asweat. It is worse reading books for review for one has to read a book whether one likes it or not, and contrary to prevailing opinion most reviewers want to enjoy the books that are foisted upon them. But the sight of the postman struggling up the path, laden with impenetrable buff bags, could be enough to send a sensitive soul over the edge. In a Jiffy even.

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