Sunday, September 05, 2004

Confessions of a Bibliomaniac

I've acquired an addiction. One that I know wouldn't quit because I had once thought I would steal to keep on feeding it. I had dreamt of what fun it might be to be invisible so that I may acquire as much of my drug-of-choice as I needed. I'd dreamt of raiding bookstores. National Bookstore, Powerbooks, Fully-Booked, Even Books-for-Less and Booksale. I had thought of ways to execute this crime (what to wear, choice of get-away vehicle, shoes) in order that my theft might avoid detection, having CSI agents in mind. I am becoming a book addict.

No, now that I look back on it, this addiction has long been in the making. It started when I was 10 years-old. It was fashionable in my fourth-grade class to read. The choices weren't all that many; Sweet Valley Twins, High and University, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and Sweet Dreams. These were the mainstream choices among other 10 year-olds in my all-girl school. Much as I might like to claim I preferred the young super-sleuths to blonde bombshells-in-the-making, I cannot. There was something uncomplicated and pleasant in the travails of pre-pubescents' angst about boys, peers and their parents. I like Sweet Dreams too. My first copy I had bought because the main character had my first name. Sweet Dreams shaped the way I looked at boys and my general knowledge of them, I must confess, rare species as they were in my All-Girl universe. If I had known then what I know now, I'd have stuck to sleuthing.

I'd collected dozens of these books, but like any book junkie, I thirsted for more. And so, I "diversified." I believe I was in fifth grade when I discovered Christopher Pike. Master of horror novels for the young, I was attracted to Pike's kind of morbid. Murder, ghosts, psychopaths and aliens were introduced to me by this juvenile version of Stephen King. Many a night I'd quivered in fear and hyperactive imagination. I loved Pike,but growing older tends to inhibit suspension of reality. And so, I moved on to "older" material.

I was 12 I think when I read my first historical romance novel. Yes, the kind with half-naked people on the cover. Ah, the joys of sex between two caricatures in an imagined historical setting in far-away lands. This was how I learned about the birds and the bees. I fed on relationships between stereotypes written for female consumption to ensure maximum romantic satisfaction in lieu of "real" relationships.

This was how I learned about love. I was hooked. And all through highschool I lived and breathed Judith McNaught, Johanna Lindsey and Amanda Quick. I was a princess, a dutchess, a lowly servant-girl who consorted with titled, aristocratic, dark-haired men who were stoic, virile and thoroughly "masculine." These men substituted for the minisucle number of boys I encountered in my real world. And so I believed men were honorable, principled beings with an almighty penis to satisfy my budding female urges. Alas, reality is a slap in the face when it comes to the men in my life. They are far from the noble, gentle knights of my girlish imaginations. Real life had finally caught up and I grew older, supposedly wiser, leaving my romances behind.

College introduced me to books that shaped and continue to shape my brain's synaptic activities. Landmark titles are Global Capitalism by Richard Peet, a Marxist. I picked his book randomly from the OPAC list of the UP main library because my Polsci 11 teacher asked us to pick among three choices on which to write an essay; War, Capitalism and the third I can't remember. Well, you know which one I picked. I suppose, more boys than girls chose the first one. I had no interest in the logistics of human evisceration. And so, completely by accident, I discovered I liked political economy, of the international sort. And of the "radical" kind. That book started it all. No professor, no indoctrinating activists. Just a single book.

My choices of books have since left the imaginary realm to dwell on "real" events and theoretical paradigms that explain and analyze them. I still occasionally purchase "in-between-ears and thighs candy" readily offered by the likes of Linda Howard and Patricia Gaffney. The writing is marginally better than my teen-aged choices, but still follows the romance formula. The fiction classics I've read can be counted on one hand. I am woefully ignorant of Gabriel Garcia Marquez or James Joyce or Brett Easton Ellis. Of pop authors I've heard Murakami and Palahniuk are gaining cult following. I've seen Fight Club, but that's about as close as I'm gonna get to entering Palahniuk's postmodern imaginary. I prefer to read postmodern socioligist/philosopher Jean Baudrillard instead.

And so throughout the years my bookshelves have continued to burgeon conversely with my eye grade. God help my poor irises, for they must be sacrificed on the altar of my addiction. I am ready to make such a sacrifice. What other explanation is there when one gets so giddily delighted by booksales and rare-book finds at bargain prices? What other explanation is there for the happiness and well-being that ensues after each quick book-gratification? I am a bibliomaniac. Does it have to do with the hubris of accumulating knowledge? Maybe. Does it have to do with "The more you know the more you don't know?" Maybe. Does it have to do with stocking up on a social capital that doesn't have anything to do with the numbers 36-24-34 or straight hair or a properly sweet demeanor? Maybe.

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