To buy is a specific act. To not buy is not an act.

The thing is, I should start saving money, just for the sake of being frugal and to further my larger goal of saving a down-payment on a house in this Near West Side, between-downtown-Urbana-and-the campus neighborhood. (The house across street that, just Thursday night, I indicated to D.G. as a house I would like to buy, went up for sale.)

And I have gone through book-0buysing spells like this before — summer of ’93 an example. I wonder if I’m a tad of a compulsive (“impulse” is more-appropriate word) buyer — because while I normally have a strong money-saving sense, my lust for books seems to overpower it. If this is a compulsion, it would be the other half to my obsessive behavior — double checking stove burners to make sure they’re off, and “notebook-wallet-keys” to make sure all are in my pockets.

But I don’t really think so. I’m not clinical. Sometimes I do put books back, telling myself I really don’t have time to read them, and that I can buy them later (sometimes the fear is that they’ll be gone later , and sometimes the fear is I won’t remember to buy them later).

And maybe the problem is partly one of existence. To buy is a specific act, and a book, a specific thing. To not buy is not an act; it’s a continuing condition of refrain from, and as such gives the positive act an overshadowing power that continues to haunt and influence after I leave the store. Every time I go back, I have to renew my resolve not to buy. And it’s (almost) impossible to use a negative state as a guiding principle because the anti-X statement inherently postulates and affirms the existence of X. The only successful response is to replace the statement or belief “anti-X” with positive statement of belief “Y” (Matt Nixon’s paper on “Forrest Gump” explains and credits this idea — as it relates to myths — to Barthes.). This idea like quitting smoking: gum or carrot sticks, if used as substitutes for cigs in the mouth and /or hands, merely remind of cigs.

So books — I think my motivation in buying is different this time from before. This time, I feel kinda like how N. described his buying of CDs when he was unhappy with his job. He was unhappy with work but he had to keep his job, and so he had cash and little time or freedom — so he bought CDs.

I like my job — I just wish I didn’t spend so much time doing it. I have cash but no time, so I buy books because it is fun, enjoyable to buy books, and I’m not fetishizing these books. I would like to — do intend to — read them. But I just don’t have time. However, I guess that I am fetishizing the books in the sense that I am buying/consuming objects, and that the act of obtaining is pleasant and that therefore, I am taking a materialistic view of these objects that are, in their creators’ purpose, idea-vehicles rather than commodities. (For the publisher and marketer, books are commodities — sales-objects, material, but for the artist, a book isn’t “product” or even “content” (I hate the currently fashionable use of that word to mean facts, numbers, stories, visual art and music in a publishing or media context, as if they are all interchangeable, for one thing. It’s very condescending and telling about the attitudes of publishers.) To an author, a book is the “story,” the “argument,” the structured (as opposed to a list of numbers) ideas. It’s the result (by my definition of art as the result of a certain mental state) of mental concentration, of putting ideas and words in their proper (according to inherent structure of the work) order.

[From journals of Sun., 8 Feb. 1998, Journal 21, pages 9-12]

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