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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