I have held many nicknames during the course of my (relatively) short life so far. My family rarely refer to me by my real name, and my friends only do so if they want to grab my attention, or if I’ve misbehaved in some way. Going through school, I had a collection of nicknames which I could pick and choose to suit my mood; one of these was Xena the Warrior Princess. I can’t imagine why.
I have just decided – as of this morning – that I now have a new nickname. I shall henceforth refer to myself, the second I cross the threshold of a bookshop, as ‘The Bookie Monster.’
My slight addiction to books is, of course, news to none of you. However, a new and worrying aspect of my life as the Bookie Monster has recently raised its ugly head. I’m talking about the complete absence of rationality, intelligence and reasoned decision-making that seems to sweep over me the second books are anywhere in view.
An example? Oh, all right then.
The other day, I was in a bookshop. This hasn’t happened in a while, so I guess I was full of pent-up book anxiety, trying to keep myself under control so that I didn’t empty entire shelves and slam them down in front of the bemused cashier.
I think, on the whole, I managed to control myself. I purchased the grand total of three books – one for me, one as a gift for a friend, and another as a replacement copy of a book which I have unaccountably lost, or which I’ve given to someone and forgotten about. The book I bought for myself is one I’ve been waiting to read for months (of which more in tomorrow’s Book Review blog), and the gift book doesn’t count as a book purchase, as it was a token of affection. (I’m sure this is a law, somewhere.)
But then we come to the replacement copy of the book which was lost.
I bought the wrong one.
I bought the wrong one! Can you imagine? I suffered some sort of brain fizz/meltdown/short-out as I gazed at the shelf, and I picked up a copy of ‘Coraline’ instead of ‘Stardust.’
My copy of ‘Stardust’ has been AWOL for a while now. I could have loaned it to someone, or perhaps it has been lost in one of the many house moves I’ve taken part in over the years. Perhaps some nefarious creature has stolen it from me. In any case, I noticed it was missing a few months ago when I was in the middle of admiring my Gaiman collection, and the wound its absence caused me was a grievous one. I can’t be without it, because when it comes to authors like Neil Gaiman and Jeanette Winterson and John Connolly and Angela Carter and others I love without question, I am a bit of a completist. (If anyone out there has my copy of ‘Stardust’ and wishes to return it, by the way, I am hereby calling an amnesty. Return it now, and no questions will be asked. Or, at least, remind me that I gave it to you, so that my anxiety can come to an end.)
I can’t explain why my brain shorted out when I saw the Gaiman shelf in this particular bookshop (it was the Gutter Bookshop, one of my favourite places in the world – if ever you’re in Dublin, check it out); perhaps ‘Stardust’ was sitting on it, looking at me, willing me to buy it, but my eye fell on ‘Coraline’ and my fate was sealed. I genuinely believed it was ‘Coraline’ I needed, and I was thrilled to have found a copy which was exactly the same as the edition I had ‘lost.’ I gladly took it to the till. I gleefully handed over my money, delighted that my Gaiman collection was now, once more, complete.
And then I brought the book home and realised its twin was sitting on the shelf. The loss of ‘Stardust’ hit me once again, with twice as much force as before. I also realised I was a proper idiot for mixing up the two books in the first place, and I questioned my right to call myself a Neil Gaiman fan. That was a bit of an existentialist crisis, and no mistake.
Anyway, I have found a home for my second copy of ‘Coraline’, and so a modicum of balance has been restored to the world. My search for ‘Stardust’, however, continues. And, the next time I set foot inside a bookshop, I will make an even greater effort to keep my brain from jumping at the first pretty book it sees…
This is the Bookie Monster, signing off at the end of another busy week. Happy Friday, everyone!