Dave's Progress. Chapter 27: Confessions of a Bibliophile.

Before all of you scream out and say, "My God! I would never have guessed!" and start daubing my house with insults and threatening to beat me up, I should remind you that the word in my blog title is "bibliophile", not the other kind of "phile" which goes around molesting children. I only say this because there was an incident in fairly recent history when, in the UK, a paediatrician was mistaken for a paedophile, simply because people didn't understand the difference in meaning of the two words. Needless to say, people marched to her house demanding that she be thrown out of the neighbourhood. So, I reiterate, I am a commited "bibliophile", which, according to the OED is a "lover or collector of books". So, having cleared that up, perhaps I can tell you what it is like being a voracious reader and collector of books.
For a start, one always seems to have the wish to have read everything. But, I can assure you, one thing you will never run out of is things to read. Just as you think you are well educated and have a fairly good overview of the major traditions in fiction (yes, I restrict myself to fiction, mostly novels), something else will pop up or rear its head and you will say, "My God! I never read that. How could I go on living without having read all that". So, I am forever looking around to find things I have not yet read. At the moment just a few pop into my head, like Georges Simenon, Marcel Proust or Mark Twain, all of whom I have yet to make a proper stab at.
And then, of course, there is the distinction which seems to be there between the so-called "classics" of literature and "popular" fiction, a distinction which leads Stephen King into a frenzy of self-justification. Indeed, many books I read because it appears that somehow it would not just be entertaining, but it would actually be "good for me". That they might, somehow, infuse my mind and soul with a new-found civility. The only problem is, half these books are so long that you may, in fact, die before you've finished them. Take, for instance, Marcel Proust's masterpiece "Remembrance of Things Past". It has two volumes, both of which are over 1000 pages long. And not just that, they are well over 1000 pages long. If you thought "War and Peace" was a struggle, just try this one. Indeed, you may end up thinking, "I wish I could regain the time I spent reading Proust". At least even Victor Hugo's gargantuan "Les Miserables" was only around a thousand pages all done. What about "Anna Karenina", around 900 pages. Or for the truly unreadable, ever dipped into James Joyce's "Ulysses" or "Finnegan's Wake". In fact, I think I remember a reader's group, based in New York, who tried to read "Finnegan's Wake", and after three years they had got to page 69. So, why not try instead that master of the popular, who nevertheless, in my opinion, can write a good book, Stephen King. Indeed, if all else fails, why not try "Misery", which I think is an extremely clever book as it is not only a crime/horror story, but a very disquisition on what so irks King and what I have been trying to talk about, that is the distinction between "high" and "popular" art.
Surprisingly enough, though, most bibliophiles don't do too well when they are included in books themselves. Just think about Casaubon in George Elliot's "Middlemarch", whom the heroine, Dorothea, mistakenly marries. He is dry, not open to experience and forever preoccupied with writing his own "masterwork" which, at the end of his life, he comes to realise was a study in literary misadventure. Or, for example, in later novels like Sarah Waters' "Fingersmith", where the heroine's bibliophilic uncle is nothing more than, really, a purveyor of pornography; a dirty old man. So, it would seem that books are trying to tell us something about book lovers. Indeed, there would seem to be a schism between the so-called life of the mind, which books encourage, and the sheer, unadulterated, unfettered living of experience. Somehow, it would seem, that even a committed bibliophile would have to try to find a balance between the two, or risk becoming another Casaubon. Or perhaps, it is as simple as that eternal pessimist, librarian, and most loved of English poets Philip Larkin says in one of his poems- "get stewed- books are a load of crap". Thanks for that Philip, I shall certainly consider it.
That's all for now from your normal, average, paranoid and delusional man.


dcrelief said…
Dear David,
Thank you; I probably could have gone the rest of my life without knowing that I am a "Bibliophile" too! I tried denial, but with 67 books on my desk for this week's adventures... I had no room to doubt this mad discovery.
David, I didn't think to "beat you up," however I had a rousing conversation with three of my latent personalities. Phew! Enough of me.
Oh dear do you have problems or what? (lol) I'm curious: is fiction less challenging to collect? I only ask because I used to collect fiction but then became increasingly interested in little "do-lally" books of insiration. I haven't been concerned about the little shop I go to for old books. Should I be concerned?
I so hope you realise that even though I shall never be the same, I appreciate your posting. Education is key, right? Oh, and Larkin? You have Larkin over there? I could NEVer bring myself to think that "book are a load of crap...but if one also getting stewed... well.
Wonderful, delighful blog. Please do the play!
Respectfully yours,
David said…
Dear Dixie,
So glad that you enjoyed my blog- ater all, us bibliophiles have to stick together!
With Very Warmest Wishes,
klahanie said…
Dear David,
Apologies for not responding to your blog at an earlier time.
You know how it is. Flippin' papparazzi will not leave me alone..and those pesky autograph hunters...
So you like to read and collect books. This might surprise you David; I do very little reading. I do have a fair collection of books though. I just like looking at them as they are mostly for display purposes. The closest I get to reading any of them is when I have a gander through my 1923 Dominion Educator Enclylopedia. That's the book that
informs me that there are only eight planets...amazing how it is now bang up to date again..but that's an old debate...poor Pluto.
I seemed to have rambled on here..Perhaps I should go read a book..With warmest wishes, Gary
dcrelief said…
Hello David,
I found the perfect photo for your "Bibliophile". See my post titled, "Something for David."
David said…
Dear Gary,
Thanks for your comment. Although, as I say, I am a voracious reader, I also have things on my shelves that I have never, or only half, read. As you say they are there for display purposes, or perhaps, making me appear more intellectual and intelligent than I really am. But here's to books, even those we can't be bothered to read!
With Very Warmest Wishes,
David said…
Dear dc,
Thanks so much for entitling one of your blogs "for me". I shall surf over right now!
With Very Best Wishes,
Hello David,

I follow Dixie's blog, and saw her 'Bibliophile' picture she posted in regards to your own 'Confessions of a Bibliophile'. It's a great picture!

I am a great lover of books, and I am a huge fan of Stephen King. One of my favorites is 'Bag of Bones'. Not long ago, I read his book titled 'Lisey's Story'...very eerie (no surprise), and very interesting. His son is an excellent writer, too.

Well, it's been nice meeting you. Hope to visit again soon. I enjoyed reading about your love of books.(smile)

Thank you for sharing,
David said…
Dear Mattie,
Thanks very much for your comment and becoming a "follower" of my blog.
I'll try to keep you entertained with my often inane ramblings!
Glad to hear that you are a fellow "bibliophile". I also liked "Bag of Bones" a geat deal, but have yet to read any of King's son's books. Yet another one to add to my "as yet unread list".
Thanks for visiting once again- hope you return.
With Very Bset Wishes,
dcrelief said…
Excuse me, but are you lost in the stacks? lol.
David said…
Dear dixie,
Many apologies for my absence recently, I may well be "lost in the stacks".
Unfortunately have not had much time to write my blog recently, but I promise to get back to you soon.
With Warmest Regards,

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