The Collector (I)

Library Den Haag

Handelingenkamer Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal Den Haag (from Candida Höfer, Libraries).

Tuesday night I reorganize my record collection; I often do this at periods of emotional stress. There are some people who would find this a pretty dull way to spend an evening, but I’m not one of them. This is my life, and it’s nice to be able to wade in it, immerse your arms in it, touch it.

When Laura was here I had the records arranged alphabetically; before that I had them filed in chronological order, beginning with Robert Johnson, and ending with, I don’t know, Wham!, or somebody African, or whatever else I was listening to when Laura and I met. Tonight, though, I fancy something different, so I try to remember the order I bought them in: that way I hope to write my own autobiography, without having to do anything like pick up a pen. I pull the records off the shelves, put them in piles all over the sitting room floor, look for Revolver, and go on from there, and when I’ve finished I’m flushed with a sense of self, because this, after all, is who I am. […]

But what I really like is the feeling of security I get from my new filing system; I have made myself more complicated than I really am. I have a couple of thousand records, and you have to be me – or, at the very least, a doctor of Flemingology – to know how to find any of them. If I want to play, say, Blue by Joni Mitchell, I have to remember that I bought it for someone in the autumn of 1983, and thought better of giving it to her, for reasons I don’t really want to go into. Well, you don’t know any of that, so you’re knackered, really, aren’t you? You’d have to ask me to dig it out for you, and for some reason I find this enormously comforting. […]

Is it so wrong, wanting to be at home with your record collection? It’s not like collecting records is like collecting stamps, or beermats, or antique thimbles. There’s a whole world in here, a nicer, dirtier, more violent, more peaceful, more colourful, sleazier, more dangerous, more loving world than the world I live in; there is history, and geography, and poetry, and countless other things I should have studied at school, including music.

From Nick Hornby, High Fidelity.

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