Geek With (Lots of) Books: The First Step is to Admit You Have a Problem
[Editors Note: SF Signal welcomes author and self-proclaimed bookaholic Scott A. Cupp in his new column, Geeks with (Lots of) Books, where he will dispense stories of his (some say crazed) love affair with all things bookish. Welcome, Scott!]
Hi, my name is Scott and I am a bookaholic. Chances are you are too.
It’s been two years since I last sold my collection. It’s been a tough two years. I mean, one day I’m sitting here looking at a complete collection of Philip K. Dick novels and stories, and the next day – zip! Nada! All gone. I watched as 19,000 volumes walked out the door. It took 10 trained packers over 6 hours to just pack them up. I wondered if I would ever miss them, where they would go, what families would have them to hold and cherish, would they love them the same way I did? It was devastating.
The decision to sell them came hard. I had spent 35 years amassing the collection. Books were my life. But, I was living in a 1,700 square foot condo with a wife and a cat and 32 bookcases and assorted stacks of titles on the floor. In the “book room” there were 12 bookcases (three for paperbacks and nine for hardbacks); all full as well as somewhere between 20 and 30 stacks of books on the floor, each stack four to five feet high. There were books in boxes. It had gotten to the point that I was no longer quite sure what I had. I had a good idea. For major authors and award winners I pretty well knew exactly what I had, but other stuff, I would have an idea but maybe not know for sure. Going through the stacks to show to the potential buyers, I found several titles that I had as many as four copies of when I thought I might have maybe one.
And there were the collections. A lot of them. I found that I was buying books just to keep some collections going. Some of these were books I had no interest in reading, but, because I had the collection, I had to have them. And some collections, like my Gold Medal paperbacks, took on a life of their own. I was collecting Gold Medal paperbacks under #2000. This was slightly over 1900 volumes. I had about half. And they were great books! Lots of mystery and western titles. A little science fiction. Books by the demi0gods such as John D. MacDonald, Charles Williams, Peter Rabe, David Goodis, Cornell Woolrich, Jim Thompson, Harry Whittington, Stephen Marlowe, and Donald B. Hamilton. These were my literary gods! But, Gold Medal would reprint frequently and often, when they reprinted, they changed the book number. None of the contents, just the number. And the price. This particularly happened when they brought out a new title in a series and decided to reissue the earlier titles. I had probably five copies of DEATH OF A CITIZEN, the first Matt Helm book by Donald B. Hamilton. This is a great spy novel, I read it. Twice. But I did not need five copies. I would go to a bookstore, spend $100 and not get anything I really wanted to read.
Obviously, this activity was an obsessive compulsive dream. I had lots of good books I wanted to read and I sent them away. I had given them a good home but it was time to set them free and let others enjoy them in the way that I no longer could. Some of them are still on the shelves here. Even though it has been two years. The bookstore was very happy to make the deal. They made their money back in decent time and still had lots of fine titles to put out. I periodically buy a few back. I have rules. It has to be book I plan to read. I may never get there but I do intend to read it. And the price has to be really quite good. Recently I bought back a handful of singed hardcover first editions by Michael Bishop, John Kessel and Terry Bisson. Great things. They were all $3 or less and I had a 15% discount coupon. Again, I had to convince myself I would read them again. I like these writers and I knew I was giving these books a very good home.
I sometimes wonder about the others. Where did they go, are they well treated. Some of my friends have purchased volumes that they knew where mine. I’m glad of that. I can still visit if I need to. But I don’t.
I kept about 1000 titles, works by very close friends or something I had just recently purchased. Those titles have multiplied. I went to a convention the other day and could not find one title I know I have. Never did find out and I was going to get it autographed. Bought it again. Old habits die hard. I have fewer bookcases but some paperbacks are double stacked. And a few hardbacks are not shelved, rather they are stacked in front of others. I embrace my bookaholic nature again. There will not be a mass purging for a while. I hope.
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