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by Rick Klaw

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Hello, my name is Rick...

"Hello, my name is Peggy and I'm a biblioholic."
-- Peggy Hailey from her review of Biblioholism by Tom Raabe
Biblioholism We have a problem. A big problem. Like many of you out there, Brandy and I are what we in the trade often refer to as biblioholics. We don't merely love books. We are obsessed with them. Our 900 sq. ft. duplex is overrun with them. Sixteen bookcases (most are the floor-to-ceiling variety) crammed with thousands of books. Most of the cases are two book rows deep, some three. Stacks of books litter the floor of our house.

Every year when our lease is up, we think about moving. This time we almost did it. We found a cute little duplex about five miles from where we currently live. The place was a 100 feet or so smaller than our current place, but the rent was $100 cheaper and the electricity would be substantially lower. (In Texas, electricity cost is a VERY important factor with our seven months of over ninety degree summer heat. Air conditioning is not just a luxury. On top of that, heat is very bad for those of us with multiple sclerosis.) The potential home lacked a dishwasher and, most importantly, a washer and dryer connection. Those of you without a washer and dryer are thinking "big deal," but as any one who owns one can tell you, once you have a set there is no going back. (MS rears its ugly head here as well. When I am not feeling well, Brandy is responsible for all the chores including the laundry. This is miserable in the best of circumstances. Not having a washer and dryer where I live is NOT the best of circumstances.) Other factors played in the decision. Eventually, we'd like to purchase our own place. Do we want to move and then move again in a year or so? Ultimately, we decided to say where we are.

The potential move brought the book problem to the forefront. If we ever hope to move again, some of the books are gonna have to go. This has become part of our spring cleaning.

Biblioholics do more than collect books. We buy them compulsively as well. I swear I get the shakes if I go more than a few weeks without buying one. How many unread books I own has no bearing on this. I could stop buying books today and never read everything I own.

Tales from the Texas Woods Believe it or not, working in a bookstore helps. I know that sounds like bullshit. Does working in a bar help an alcoholic? (Only if his name is Sam Malone.) Or does dealing blackjack help a compulsive gambler? Of course not. Being a biblioholic is about much more than having possession. I need to be immersed in books, literally where the action is. I love dealing with books. The smell, the touch. If I could get some guarantee that Heaven smells like old books, I just might believe in an after-life. There is nothing as comforting to a book nut as that powerful aroma. My office (where I sit and write this column) is literally overflowing with books. Theye are teetering stacks everywhere. It has that musty book smell. There is no place in my home that I feel more comfortable. I get a similar feeling at work. Every day, I get to play with books. I see literally thousands of them a day. This keeps my compulsion mostly under control (though between the first and second drafts of this column, I bought two books). And since I work in a used bookstore, the books are cheaper. 'Course that doesn't always make it all right.

"Honey, look at this book I bought."
Brandy shoots me a look of dread and suspicion.
"But it only cost me 50 cents."
To which she replies, "That's not the point. Where are we gonna put it?"
Which brings me to my current situation. Philosophically and metaphysically, parting with possessions is a good idea. It's a rebirth of sorts. Reduce the miscellany to be free to experience new things. Or something like that. I'm sure I've got all of it outlined in a book somewhere. If only I could find it.

Another problem with biblioholism is chaos. Stacks of books everywhere. Overflowing shelves. Don't tell anyone, but often I can't find a book that I know I own. Nothing is more frustrating than the drive to look something up and I can't find the damn thing. The famed western writer Elmer Kelton once told a story about having to go to the store to buy a reference book that he knew he owned. He just had no idea where it was. It certainly made me feel a lot better since I've had to do that myself. I was working on a proposal for a book on the history of the Cyberpunk movement. I knew I owned a copy of Andrew M. Butler's Cyberpunk (from the Pocket Essentials series), but I couldn't find it. I actually had to go and buy a new one. To make matters worse, it's not a very good book, has some factual errors and therefore is not a lot of Hacker Crackdown help. (According to Butler, Bruce Sterling's Hacker Crackdown was inspired by a raid on TSR Games in Switzerland. It was actually inspired by a raid on Steve Jackson Games in Austin, Texas. Check those facts, people.) The upside is that I'll have no qualms about selling my duplicate copy.

Weird Business

Some books are easier to get rid of then others. Do I really need all the original issues of From Hell, now that I own the collected graphic novel? Or a copy of How Computers Work from 1999? I used to own a several old almanacs, but I've managed to get rid of those. I have a Random House unabridged dictionary, so I think I can sell my two copies of The Random House College Dictionary. (But what if I can't find the 2,230 page, five pound book and I need a dictionary? Well, my wife still has her Oxford paperback...)

Then there are the difficult choices. Things like my signed Carl Hiassen. I love his writing, but I doubt I'll ever read those books again. It was difficult, but tough decisions must be made. Kyle Baker is an artistic genius and I used to pride myself on having everything he's done, but do I need his Dick Tracy movie adaptation? Probably not.

Of course, there are the books they will have to pry from my cold, dead hands. My (nearly) complete collection of signed Joe R. Lansdale titles. Or my signed Michael Moorcock books. Then there's the leather bound Collected Stories by Richard Matheson and my complete run of Philip K. Dick titles. There are others. Books that have sentimental value and/or given to me by writer/artist friends.

I figure if we can get the bookcases down to one or two rows and the stacks off the floor, everything should be okay. Wait a second. If I keep bringing books home... uh-oh. We better find that big home to buy quick.

Copyright © 2003 Rick Klaw

Not content with just being a regular columnist for SF Site, Rick Klaw decided to collect his columns, essays, reviews, and other things Klaw in Geek Confidential: Echoes From the 21st Century (available September 2003 from Monkey Brains, Inc). As a freelance editor, former book buyer, managing editor, and bookstore manager, Rick has experience with most aspects of the book business. He is a sick, sick man. Light a candle for him, just make sure it's far away from his books.

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