My books number to about six hundred, a miserly albeit not easily amassed collection of papered darlings that accompany my frequent anti-social episodes; they are treasure.
Whereas friends tremble over the latest iPhone and iPad, my vice lie in the stuffy fragrance of dust-powdered hardcovers and crumpled paperbacks.
As a child, I did not twist my parents’ arms over an Optimus Prime, Tomiya cars or some action figure. I howled over my father’s refusing to buy a Famous Five story book or a Ladybird hardcover edition of the animated Brave Starr series. My sons, nowadays, would have begged to violate my already credit-less wallet for a Ben 10 action figure or the Japanese spin-top toy called Beyblade Metal Fight.
Do not get me wrong, I was like any other boy who loved action cartoons such as Transformers, Brave Starr and The Visionaries but when it came to the tangible, I prefered story book editions of these cartoons instead of action figures.
Many of those books are probably either in some second-hand bookshop or have long been incinerated. I am not the sentimental fool to hoarde, even books, at the expense of pragmatic housekeeping. My one regret though, was when I dumped my precious Stephen King mass paperback editions down the rubbish chute during one hormone-spurred manic episode as a result of an evangelical Christian delusion concerning the evils of the horror genre. That was the end of my Stephen King days.
Books can be vistas through which we elope to a gaiman-esque universe where magic becomes real and the macabre an inch away from reality. Sometimes, they are microscopes into the messy human condition: many great literary works do just that. When I was still living with my parents, books were stacked liberally on my desk and on the floor, frustrating my brother who shared the already cramped room. He must have thanked the gods that I moved to my own place, which was located across the street from my parents’, after I got married.
I was delighted when we first bought bookshelves for my books. I shelved my darlings almost immediately. I love to gaze at my books and sometimes rearrange them. They continue to multiply, with more genres and subjects. According to my mood at a particular time, I will display certain books, be it world history, theology, philosophy or natural science. I will sardine-stack the rest into the roomy cupboard drawers.
As a book lover, one recognises immediately the dizzying drumbeats in the chest and the slightly crazed sparkle in the dilated eye as one anticipates the deflowering of a newly purchased book. One caresses the spine and reads the summary on the back cover. Over and over. Then like a teenage lover one rips the shrink-wrapped plastic off the virgin covers and thumbs through the crisp pages and inhales deeply the musty dank fragrance. It is all good.
It takes some time before one actually reads the book. All that smelling and fingering is foreplay, the prelude to the real thing; which when occurs, will not stop until climax is reached.