Friday, March 09, 2007

Bookbuyers Anonymous?

They say the first step to getting over any addiction is admitting you have one, but what if you don't want to?

Take, for instance, what I consider to be the bane and joy of my cube-bound existence: The two Barnes and Noble stores flanking the route I take to and from the subway every morning come in a close second. And I love them. Love them love them love them. Without them I would be a hollow shell of myself. Pedestrian. Plebian. Dour.

The stacks of neat, crisp pages on the tables by the door of the Union Square B&N (we're on an initials-only basis these days), are more seductive than the finest intoxicant. Nothing is more indulgent than a leisurely stroll around the paperbacks, reading back cover copy, flipping through pages to assess the font, line spacing, print size. How long would this one take if I dedicated two hours every night? Or if I spent Saturday at the Tea Lounge with you instead of watching TV with my roommates, I ask a prim copy of "Postwar", a gargantuan tome chronicling everything that's happened in Europe since Hitler got the boot.

I admit I have a problem.

I own more books than I can count, and every time I move I aim to prune the collection and remove anything that hasn't seemed like a good idea in five years or more. This often ends up in towering jenga-like structures against a wall or on the back corner of my desk, teetering piles of paperbacks that are destined for the re-sale counter of the Strand on Fourth Avenue, but which tend to wind up right there. In a pile that stays well past it's sell-by date, and most likely makes it into my next round of brown-boxes and on to the next apartment.

It isn't just that I can't bring myself to get *rid* of books. I'm more likely to resist a martini or a (miraculous) glass of 2003 Stags Leap Wine Cellars cabernet than I am to resist clicking "move to cart" after reading a few pages of... Aristotle, Austin, pulp fiction, anything Penguin Classic, anything I'll need for book club (I'm in two) and then anything else I can justify sneaking into my own shopping cart as I prepare to click "buy"...

I even buy my book-club reads on separate trips so that I have an excuse to buy books twice a month. Two times! And it's never just one. So the shelf of the un-read grows more crowded and my guilt and shame become a darker cloud on my horizon. Not only have I spent more money that I could have given to my credit card company in exchange for my eventual freedom (the indentured servitude of the 21st century), I have more words, more thoughts, more great ideas, stacking up waiting for my lazy brain to get around to turning off American Idol and turning on a lamp, pouring myself a glass of wine or a cup of tea, and doing something other than obesssing over the things I don't know.

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