Wednesday, 8 February 2006

A pound of paper

Listening to:

Simply the best, by Tina Turner.

Just read:

John Baxter, A pound of paper: confessions of a book addict.

This book is an enjoyable memoir about the life of an Australian who grew up in the fifties, got the sci-fi reading bug, emigrated to the UK, and became a book collector. It makes for a fascinating mix. On the one hand, Baxter has lots to say about the sometimes seedy, and usually rather nerdy habits of book collectors. This is interesting enough in itself, but Baxter also has another string to his bow: an Australian autobiographical slant that reads a little like Clive James’s Unreliable memoirs.

The book collecting leads Baxter into personal contact with authors as well as other collectors. He meets Kingsley Amis at one point, for example. This is interesting enough, but I think the discussion of how one might get oneself a collecting “angle” is more interesting. You don’t want to collect a big author like Graham Greene, as Baxter did, but you could, for example, collect first editions of Booker Prize winners.