Wrong. Think of the sensual gratification you get from holding books in your hand. Close your eyes and visualize the covers of books you have bought recently; let your eyes scan the delicious contours of the cover illustrations. Picture the gaps on your bookshelves--the empty spaces between the tightly-packed books and the shelf above. Picture the empty walls that could be filled with more bookshelves. Remember the unease with which you habitually respond to questions like "Have you read all these?" and "Where'd you buy all these?", especially when asked by students.
Another way of phrasing this question might be to ask how many bookstores there are in town where the sales personnel know you by name, university position, and preferred book-buying habits. Do you find yourself going out for a pack of cigarettes and a soda and stopping by the bookstore? When was the last time you walked out of a bookstore without buying something?
Testimonial. Hi, my name is Georgette and I'm an addict. I don't know when I began compulsively buying books; it doesn't matter, either. As my sponsor always says, it doesn't matter how your mule got in the ditch, the question is how to get it out. I do recall the end of my addiction, though--vividly. It was ugly. I went to the library to just "see if they were open." Of course, I knew they would be, and I knew that they were having a used book sale--they always do. I had an account with the librarian, a "friend" of mine who was becoming rather irritated since I had an outstanding balance of $2,897.25--all on books selling for a quarter. I had no cash save for the $2.75 I was going to use for a gallon of milk for my children's breakfast in the morning. I recall casually walking by the sale table, glancing down at the titles; I had no money, no credit, I couldn't possibly buy anything, right? The rest of the afternoon is hazy . . . I recall a lot of yelling at the circulation desk, some red faces, a torn book cover . . . leaving the library quickly with an armload of books, my money gone, my "friend" in hot pursuit . . . some really very nice young policemen . . . my girlfriend coming to the station . . . I was waiting in a holding cell . . . reading a book. She had to call my name several times before I heard her . . .
She suggested that I go with her to an Academics Anonymous meeting that night. "I didn't know you belonged to that group," I recall saying to her. "Why, yes." "But I never see you reading anything . . ." "Exactly," she said, and took me by the hand to my first meeting. At once, as the chair read the preamble, I knew I was where I belonged.
(Well, we were there when she walked in, and this isn't exactly how it went. She sat in the back twisting and turning, making faces, sighing with boredom, until almost the end, when she suddenly burst into tears. Everybody stopped and turned to look at her, rushed to her side, stroked her face, until she began to sputter out her story. (DR/BK)
(Of course, I was only there out of respect for Doug. I'm not an academic. BK.)
Oh, sure, it's been hard. I've had several "slips."
(She calls them "slips." In group we discovered that buying books of "poetry" didn't "really" count for Georgette; she also enjoyed reading the text of Academics Anonymous, protesting, when taken to task for this, "But isn't this therapeutic?" DR/BK)
But I take it one day at a time, and use my blinders when necessary. I still think back on my "bottom," though, with my "friend" at the library. God! I never want that to happen again . . . thank goodness for Academics Anonymous. You know, I saw my "friend" just the other day and she asked how I was doing. I just smiled and said, "I haven't bought or read anything more than a horoscope and a poem or two in three months!" And I know that I am one of the lucky ones. I was only a part-time instructor when I caught my problem and decided to do something about it. My father, God rest his soul, went to his grave a full professor without the slightest inkling that there was a better life out there just waiting for him to reach out and grasp it.
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Copyright 1993 Doug Robinson and Denialozine Kaul