to have and to hold

Terence’s folks had three china pheasants flying up the wall of their small living room. No ducks for these people, they were suburban aspirers. Terence was my school mate, and I’m not mocking their small house, it’s just they were universally large people, and their small house must’ve needed love and patience in abundance. I’m not sure that there was any abundance – it was always a slightly tense atmosphere – which I always put down to just my normal feeling uncomfortable with strangers.

Getting back to the pheasants, sitting in the living room one day with Terence watching tv – which was in itself unusual, it meant his folks were away somewhere – my eye was drawn to the pheasants. Something was weird, but I couldn’t quite figure it out. On closer examination I found that the biggest pheasant had been broken into a number of pieces, and glued back together. The overall effect was like looking at a pheasant with the Cubism filter slightly on. Terence admitted the pheasant had fallen victim to an unexpectedly accurate rubber band…

Philipp Blom writes about kitsch and its collectors in To Have and to Hold, along with a plethora of other collecting fetishes. I’ve commented before I’m not particularly oriented to collecting, and Blom is an inspiration not to start.

He does have a chapter dedicated to book collectors – bibliomaniacs – people for whom the idea of buying two copies of every book is reasonable – one to read, one to collect. Um, this is something I can understand. He writes about the collector who got a bigger house to manage his ever expanding book collection – this doesn’t seem unreasonable to me. If memory serves me right, this is the same collection that is working through the auction houses 170+ years after the collector’s death. Some of the books are still in the cases they were delivered in – never opened, never read. Now, at this point, this bibliophile and I part company – what’s the point of having a book and not reading it?

I believe you should never fear to read a book and I’ve always been determined to take whatever book I could borrow from a library and read it – without fear or favour. The idea of ‘forbidden’ books is something of a horror to me (and an enticement to read them). I really like a quote Blom included:

For him that stealeth, or borroweth, and returneth not, this book from the owner, let it change into a serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him be struck with palsy, and all his members blasted. Let him languish in pain crying aloud for mercy, and let there be no surcease to his agony till he sing in dissolution. Let bookworms gnaw his entrails, and when at last he goeth to his final punishment, let the flames of Hell consume him forever.

Curse on book thieves from the library of the Monastery of San Pedro, Barcelona

I’m sad when I remember my friend, Terence. He was killed in a motorcycle accident on Xmas Day, 2001, at about 5:30 in the morning, going home to his partner and kids after working through the night so he could spend the whole day with his loved ones. After somewhat empty childhood and teenage years he deserved love, and life, longer.


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