Thursday, June 21, 2007

Idiosyncracies of Book-collecting


Funny enough, I don't suffer the completist syndrome with my bibliophilia unlike some other forms of collecting.*

What I do suffer from is complementary to my almost addictive need to go through second-hand bookshops. Usually if I find something I like, I would immediately buy it given the cheap cost. But there are days when I even lack the money to buy cigarettes (which is around 2 bucks a stick) so finding a good book during those times can be sheer torture of self-denial. And when I do finally have the money, usually the book is gone by then.

That's when I suffer from what I call a 'Holy Grail' fixation, in which I try to find another copy of the missing book. Sometimes I get lucky, like when I found a hardbound copy of Michael Swanwick's Jack Faust. But most of the time, when it's gone, it's gone.

So it was with some determination that I recently emailed a friend of my mother in the US if I could order some literally hard-to-find books in different online venues like abebooks, Barnes and Noble and even eBay. And after a solid two months of waiting, the shipment finally came in today. The books that came in were:

  1. Waking Beauty, Paul Witcover
  2. Fitzpatrick's War, Theodore Judson
  3. Point of Hopes, Melissa Scott and Lisa Barnett

I know I've mentioned this before but my first thought when I think of that Holy Grail of a book is Waking Beauty by Paul Witcover, which I once mentioned here. On the other hand, I once saw this hardbound of Judson's alternative SF book, Fitzpatrick's War, at Booksale but wasn't able to buy it because it was slightly pricier at HB prices. Scott and Barnett's fantastical Renaissance mystery Point of Hopes is a weird duck in that I managed to get its sequel, Point of Dreams, first (a long, long time ago, actually). Now I have this bad habit of reading book 2 of a series and then buying book 1 after because I liked what I read. However, time and other books have overtaken me such that I never had a chance to read the sequel yet despite its lovely cover. I guess this time I'll be reading it in sequence then. And then there's Blaylock's short story-collection** I found in the mega-branch of National Bookstore in Cubao but didn't pick up. What was I thinking?!?

Unfortunately-- and here's the funny part-- what do I do now that I've managed to gain the Holy Grail? I admit to some feelings of dissatisfaction and disgruntlement especially now that I've scored a copy of the Witcover. To paraphrase that famous saying, What now, brown cow? Look for another Grail, I guess. A look in my booklist reveals other missing books in my collection. But it's a saddening realization: that as a book-collector, it's more of the search rather than the finding of the book that's important for me.

*Of course I admit that I do suffer from a rather different version of completist suffering. It usually involves lack of time, i.e. I don't have time to read continually a series of books. So rather than skip a particular book when I do find it, I usually snap it up as soon as I can-- which is why I end up with a particular large store of unread books. Unfortunately, sometimes I end up liking the series of books but most of the time, age has turned me unappreciative of that very first book I read when I was younger and thus, rendering that series I managed to complete in vain. Ah well...

**Aha! It seems that a book slipped through my cursory inspection of the balikbayan box it came in: a mmpb copy of James Blaylock's Thirteen Phantasms and Other Stories. Now I'm slightly more happy to forego the next search of the Holy Grail.***

***Hmmm...Obviously, when the next Holy Grail does come up, I'll probably rant and rail against the injustices of the world about how I can't afford it and waiting impatiently for the next pay check to come in. But in the meantime, I'll try to be satisfied with what I have...

... right, can't believe it either, eh?

12 comments:

Der Fuhrer said...

Woah man, congratulations!

And BTW, me digs Waking Beauty too. Looks amazing. Haha

banzai cat said...

Thanks :-) yeah the Witcover looks real good. Weird to feel though having it on hand after so long.

Sean said...

I always thought it was "How now, brown cow?" :)

M.R.M. said...

Congrats on your acquisition, dude! I know exactly how you feel....

banzai cat said...

sean: Oops, sorry 'bout that. Editing now added. My brain must have been screwed wrong when I posted that.

mahesh: Thanks man! :-D

jimarroyo said...

Haha! A link to my last post on the J-Blog! I didn't realize my "treatise" warranted cross-reference. ;)

Anyway, I too, am familiar with that "Holy Grail" syndrome, which to my mind is Completism's first cousin or some other kind of fairly close relation.

What makes my encounters with the syndrome worse is how I have, from time to time, passed up stuff even with the money in my pocket only to rush back as little as a day later (I'm wishy-washy that way) to find the item gone. Presto, the item, depending on how hard to find it gets from that point onwards, becomes a Holy Grail.

It's happened less and less lately, but I'd be somewhat presumptuous to claim I've "outgrown it." All it'll take is the right diecast car, really...

Eldritch00 said...

I'm actually not much of a completist, either, now that I think about it.

(Well, I try to pick up anything by Cornell Woolrich that I find, but I've only done that for Waltz into Darkness, and they were different editions. I also do it for other writers like T.E.D. Klein, but again, different editions.)

Maybe it's mostly because of limited funds, but I'm wondering if my buying habits would change if I had more money. I'm not sure really since, after all, there are so many more books out there to buy first.

I so hate it when a book I've had my eye on disappears just when I could afford to buy it. And yes, it's even more frustrating when it's a secondhand book that's not that expensive anyway.

The Holy Grail that comes to my mind is that copy of Joel Lane's From Blue to Black that I once saw in NBS-Cubao. It's not speculative fiction, but it's a novel about two gay musicians in a post-punk band, and I should have gotten that, money be damned. Now it's gone...forever.

(About cigarettes, there have been times when I'd beg a friend to buy me a pack, just so I could "survive.")

However, I never read sequels if I didn't read the preceding book, even if I'm having so much trouble finding the first book in a series. (Actually, I don't read many series either.) I force myself to do that, because I can't ever be sure of finding the time to re-read something.

The other part of your entry that I don't feel the same about is the dissatisfaction you mention when you've acquired a Holy Grail. I'm too excitable, I guess, to the point where I sometimes feel like I could collapse in tears...please don't laugh at me for saying that!

kat said...

What I do suffer from is complementary to my almost addictive need to go through second-hand bookshops. Usually if I find something I like, I would immediately buy it given the cheap cost. But there are days when I even lack the money to buy cigarettes (which is around 2 bucks a stick) so finding a good book during those times can be sheer torture of self-denial. And when I do finally have the money, usually the book is gone by then.

I can relate to this. :) I love browsing through secondhand book shops and often leave with two or three bargains. It's hard whenever I spot a good book but don't have enough money to get it. When I see a particular book that I like or have been looking for quite some time now, I get all giddy and excited.

I don't really read much books of this kind, but my uncle has a fascination with them, so I browse through his collection once in a while.

banzai cat said...

andrew:

Maybe it's mostly because of limited funds, but I'm wondering if my buying habits would change if I had more money. I'm not sure really since, after all, there are so many more books out there to buy first.

Ironically, most of the books I've set out to complete I've found in 2nd-hand editions so they were pretty easy to complete. :-D

And you managed to find a book by Joel Lane? Really? That's a surprise. Was it small press?

However, I never read sequels if I didn't read the preceding book, even if I'm having so much trouble finding the first book in a series. (Actually, I don't read many series either.) I force myself to do that, because I can't ever be sure of finding the time to re-read something.

Hehe I guess that's the problem with my chosen reading material in that a LOT of it is in series form.

On the other hand, I envy you on the dissatisfaction thing. Not that I don't appreciate the stuff I get, mind! But I guess sometimes it's the thrill of the hunt that matters. :-)

lat: Heya, welcome aboard! :-)

Yeah, I know what you mean. Actually, whatever choice of reading material, it doesn't really matter. It's the actual scrounging and finding of the books in the humongous pile that gets me running. ;-)

banzai cat said...

Eeek! Sorry kat, typo error! Must eat, still hungry! Mwawr!

banzai cat said...

jim: Sheesh, I really have to eat lunch, considering I missed replying to your comment!

Seriously, I normally don't have the wishy-washy determination given that it's easier for me to judge whether I think I'd like a book or not. However, my problem occurs when I can't decide and I forgo buying it instead, so that I can go online to check the reviews. Unfortunately, if the bookshop is located out of the way, getting back will be a real pain in the neck. Grr!

Eldritch00 said...

The Joel Lane book I saw was by Serpent's Tail. Somewhere between "genre small-press" and "major publisher," I would guess, but I'm not too sure. I've never seen this other one though.

You should order Night Shade's The Lost District and Other Stories, by the way, as it's a stellar collection.

Also, this happens to me ALL THE TIME and is why I'll be first in line when they start installing Wi-Fi thingummies in our heads for on-the-spot inside-skull Internet browsing:

However, my problem occurs when I can't decide and I forgo buying it instead, so that I can go online to check the reviews.

Even worse is how this happens not with out-of-the-way bookstores, since I hardly go on such expeditions. In other words, these are books that someone else bought in the short time between my discovery and my return. Frustrating!