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Do you tell yourself you can stop anytime you want?

Do you log on to the internet with the full intention of reading your email and paying your bills, and then just maybe checking this or that collectors' website or blog "for a minute," or glance at Amazon just to be sure you're not missing a great buy, and look up hours later, dazed, exhausted and poor?

Do your significant others wish you spent more time looking at porn? 

As Google will confirm, it was Warren Zevon who said we buy books because we think we're buying the time to read them. Actually he was paraphrasing Schopenhauer, and the quote is: "Buying books would be a good thing if one could also buy the time to read them in, but as a rule the purchase of books is mistaken for the appropriation of their contents."

The same goes for all this useless acquisition of mylar, for downloads, for those expensive new turntables for transferring your LPs to CD-R or MP3. "At last" declares the happy advertisement for such a gadget that showed up in my last credit card bill. "And now the real work begins," I think.

My problem is that I seem to be a collector but not much of a listener. That would take time. Other people might think it's a simple matter to play new CDs (or whatever musical medium you prefer) while surfing the web looking for more bargains, or while building that better mousetrap in the garage, or grouting the bathroom. I might as well try to listen while reading or sleeping. I might play background music if I'm already very familiar with it or don't really care if I can pay attention to it, but when I give something a serious first listen, I treat it the same as a book or a film: I devote my whole attention to it. Therefore things are put off until I have the spare hour—which I don't. But the stack accumulutates. It makes good insulation for the house.

It's a sickness, but I justify it by saying it won't always be available, the price will go up, I'll have the time one day in my dotage or, if I'm lucky, during a prolonged bedridden illness.

While driving the car? No, that's when I get my reading done! I'm currently listening to Toni Morrison read her own "A Mercy," and before that, I managed to hear Michael Chabon's "The Yiddish Policeman's Union" and Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" and Maggie Gyllenhall reading Sylvia Plath's "The Bell Jar," all from the library. I'm more prepared to discuss these than the last 50 soundtrack CDs I purchased, many of which are still shrinkwrapped.

The idea that having something sit around the house unread, unwatched, unheard is the same as not having it at all, the same as letting it sit fecund in the public library—these are truths I feel intellectually but not emotionally.

I have to sign off now—gotta check my Amazon wantlist.

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Comments (2):Log in or register to post your own comments
brilliant piece! i can attest to the accumulated results, the substantive insulation, of over 50 years of collecting--LPs, books, comics, videos, CDs, DVDs and no doubt something else i've gathered without truly absorbing. there are random stacks of books and CDs here and there awaiting a first (much less second) encounter. and still i search and ponder and often buy... so: can one live long enough to divest successfully too?

We've talked a lot about this on the messageboard throughout the years.

In short: No, this never happened to me, not even when I used to buy soundtracks on a regular basis.

Back in 2003 or thereabouts, I reached a saturation point in my collecting. I had almost 1000 soundtracks and wanted to spend more time with what I already had. Plus there were other things in life that become just as, if not more important than soundtracks, believe it or not.

So from that point on, I bought very few CD's. Only the must-haves and occasional exception. Certainly not enough to have them lying around, just waiting to get a spin.

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