“You’re not a hoarder; you’re a collector,” a friend (who has some book hoarding issues) assured me recently. Then why do I often feel like I am on the verge of becoming the 21st Century’s version of the Collyer Brothers?
There is no rhyme or reason to the things I collect, sometimes it starts on a small scale and is a short lived trend. And sometimes people mistake my interests and passions for what was a short lived phase. In the late 1980s I started collecting a lot of black pottery and then got over it quickly, but my mother continued to buy me pieces that I really didn’t like at the time but now cherish.
And then there is the beaker collection. I started picking them up at Scrap SF about a year ago and now have several dozen. I just keep coming across such interesting and unusual shapes that it is hard to resist. But what do those beakers mean? Perhaps it’s the appeal of mad scientists that has always intrigued me.
I couldn’t even begin to analyze the tens or hundreds of thousands of books, many of them two or three layers deep in bookcases. Obscure monographs, travel guides, Catalan novels, and Vietnamese poetry. It all means somethings. Surely.
I was never much of a collector of VHS tapes. I had a maximum of a couple dozen that I purchased, though I thankfully was a voracious recorder of things, the best of which I have since converted to DVD. I have a number of obscure WNET broadcasts from the 1980s and 1990s that I am grateful I captured since many have never seen the light of DVD release. Perhaps I sensed that VHS and BETA were finite mediums, but I think it was just their clunkiness and outrageous price tags in the early days, easily double or triple the costs of Blu-ray discs even in dollars not adjusted for inflation.
My DVD collection is small compared to LPs, CDs (another medium I never embraced that much though I have tens of thousands), or books. I have several thousand, many of which are now available on streaming Netflix, albeit without special features. And a number of Criterions Collection releases are on streaming Netflix, but they are lacking the many special features that are the Criterion hallmark. Above is about 80% of my Criterions. I think of the scene in Howard’s End where Leonard Bast attends the lecture on Music and Meaning. I think of that every time I pull out a Criterion, certain that there is a meaning in all of it but also wondering at what point will my collection tower so high that I will meet the fate of the Collyers?