I do not think of myself as a stuff guy. I do not collect china, or weapons, or art. Or ceramic chickens (a friend does this -- her house is full of the darn things. Makes Christmas and birthday present buying easy, but I can't imagine moving her. You'd need a separate van for the poultry.) I'm a minimalist. I own two pairs of jeans, a dozen shirts, a suit, a sport jacket, and three pairs of shoes. So you'd think that moving me would be easy. One suitcase. Add a couch, a can of coffee, and a computer, and that'd be it, right? Well, not quite. There are the kids, for one thing, and they need beds. And food (yes, I am an indulgent father). And entertainment. But these are not the biggest time-takers in my current move. Not at all. It has happened before, and it is happening now. I am coming, once again, to realize how wrong about myself I am. I don't think of myself as a stuff guy, but I am. I may be exaggerating, but I swear I have carried seven hundred and fifty thousand boxes of books to and from house and moving van and house. It's not that I'm a packrat. Every move I make, I throw out books. But every move I make, there are more books than there were last time. How does this happen? Why does the universe conspire to fill my space with words on paper? If I collected rare antique autos they'd take less space (way less -- in fact, they'd take no space at all since I couldn't afford any). Or ceramic chickens, say. The dumbest aspect of my book collection (I don't like the word, but don't know what else to call it) is that they are mostly books I don't like. Books I mean to read but don't get round to. Books I start, and then put away. Books that I should read, if I weren't too busy reading murder mysteries, or playing frisbee, or trying to finish my new book. I'll give you an example. Romola. I've mentioned this baby before. A masterpiece, say some. Maybe, say I, but I don't know since I have never been able to get past page 104. I have carted that book around since college, starting it eighteen or twenty times. I can't remember for sure what took my attention away from page 105. The Blue Jays were in the World Series, I think. Which shows you how long ago this all was. I'd like to give up on Romola and Tito and the rest of the Florentine crew. But I feel as though, having invested this much time and labour in lugging the book around, I owe it to myself to finish. There is a bit of compulsion involved here, I know. I'm like a gambler who keeps doubling up in order to break even. Maybe if I read Romola this year, I won't have to carry it to my next place. But I'm scared. For every book I throw out, two more appear in its place. If I chuck Romola, who can say what might show up to replace it? Maybe (shudder) Daniel Deronda. No, I can't risk it. Romola goes in the box -- same one she travelled in last time.
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