Category Archives: book-buying disorder

The unsung heroes of our culture

A dying trade

Precarious lives of Britain’s few remaining sellers of second-hand books

Dalrymple writes:

I remain firm in my admiration of those who do not work exclusively or even principally for money; and among the latter must surely be English provincial sellers of second-hand books.

Theirs is

a dying trade, and entering their shops – now, alas, fewer and fewer – one cannot help but wonder whether it ever truly lived. As long as I can remember, which is now quite a long time, they have been cold with a kind of irredeemable cold, an absence of warmth upon which no paraffin heater, no pre-war single bar electric heater (of the kind favoured by booksellers), no clement weather, can make the slightest impression.

When you take a book from a shelf of one of these bookshops,

you get a puff of cold air in the face, as well as of dust, as if you had opened a mediæval tomb complete with a curse against grave-robbers. One associates dust with dry heat, but this, at least where English provincial second-hand bookshops is concerned, is a mistake. They contrive to be cold, dusty and damp at the same time.

Dalrymple finds it remarkable that

in so materialistic an age as our own people can be found who not only spend, but want to spend, and cannot conceive of not spending, their working lives in such conditions, and all for little monetary reward.

True,

they are more or less protected by their avocation from the seamier and more violent side of modern society; burglars and armed robbers in even the worst areas for crime do not think to break into second-hand bookshops; and the comings and going of governments do not trouble them. Not for them, either, the shadow-boxing of modern party politics, in which one political mountebank sets himself up as the last bastion against the depredations of another, in truth not very dissimilar, mountebank.

Rather,

they concern themselves with the eternal verities of light foxing, cocking, small tears to dust jackets, and the like. The worst that can happen to them is a gentle slide into insolvency as rents rise (all such shops are now found in the unlikeliest places because they can survive only where rents are low) and readers decline – both in number and in discrimination. For my money (of which, incidentally, they have taken a lot down the ages) they are the unsung heroes of our culture.

Happier times

Dalrymple bookshelves

From the Wanderlust interview

Prazeres e surpresas da bibliofilia

Por que ditadores adoram histórias em quadrinhos? Como um pênalti pode causar uma guerra entre dois países? Os livros garimpados da biblioteca de Dalrymple contam casos curiosos não com as histórias dos textos originais que carregam, mas com a sua própria trajetória. São elas que fazem o pensamento do autor viajar e trazer à tona, em seu estilo instigante, memórias e observações críticas sobre literatura, história, política, filosofia, medicina, sociedade, viagens etc. Uma jornada pelos prazeres e surpresas da bibliofilia para curiosos incuráveis.

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Dalrymple’s Disease

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The disease, also known as Dalrymple Syndrome, is included in the manual

This crushing book-buying illness

Dalrymple has long been a victim of a malady that few observers have spoken of (possibly out of embarrassment, though the patient himself is often unaware of, or indifferent to, the condition), one that is far less common than it was but which is still occasionally diagnosed in not wholly statistically insignificant numbers, namely book-purchasing disorder.

The layman is all too apt to dismiss the illness as merely nauseating and hateful to the onlooker, but it is important to recognise that members of the book-buying disorder community are suffering from a severe, apparently intractable, condition or affliction that requires to be understood and treated non-judgmentally.

Sadly exhibiting one of the characteristic symptoms, Dalrymple openly tells an interviewer that he

cannot walk by a bookstore without buying a book.

Bibliopsychosis

Dalrymple's bedroom

Dalrymple’s bedroom

Dalrymple Disorder is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, with the hoarding of second-hand or antiquarian books being recognised as a psychosis for which therapy is urgently needed. (Penetration disorder, impulse-control disorder, gambling disorder, racism, caffeine-induced sleep disorder, homophobia, occupational defiant disorder, mother-in-law relational disorder, hypoactive sexual desire disorder, Islamophobia, hyperactive sexual desire disorder, sexism, and alternating hypoactive-hyperactive sexual desire disorder, are also set out in the manual.)

Dalrymple is required to undergo lengthy treatment for his book-buying disorder and

must stay in therapy, so that the doctor keeps getting paid.

What is book-hoarding disorder? US medical authorities have described it as follows.

Dalrymple's garage

Dalrymple’s garage

Book-hoarding disorder is characterized by the persistent difficulty in discarding or parting with books, regardless of the value others, such as spouses or other family members, may attribute to them.

The book-hoarding behaviours (focal sepsis may be present), collectively known loosely as Dalrymple’s Disease,

usually have harmful effects—emotional, neurophysiological, social, political, gastrointestinal, ethical, dental (halitosis is often severe), environmental, financial, theological, paranormal and legal—for the person suffering from the disorder and their spouse (or spouses, up to four, if the sufferer is a male Muslim) or other family members.

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Dalrymple’s WC

For people who hoard books,

the quantity of their collected volumes (the quality will not be discussed here) sets them apart from people with normal book-collecting behaviors.

They obsessively accumulate a large number of books

that often fill up or clutter active living areas of the home or workplace to the extent that the active living areas’ intended use (dining, laundry, defæcation, gardening, table-tennis, bathing, baseball, DIY, micturition, off-road parking, television viewing, copulation, social gatherings, food preparation, etc.) becomes supererogatory and is severely constrained or precluded, with adverse effects for spouses, other family members, friends, work colleagues, visiting representatives of city and federal authorities, etc.

Dalrymple's dining-room

Corner of Dalrymple’s dining-room

Distressing

Symptoms of the bibliomanic frenzy

cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, technological, eschatological, educational, sexual, vocational, ecclesiastical, uro-genital, occupational, horticultural, supernatural, teleological or other important areas of functioning including maintaining a minimally adequate living environment for self, spouse and/or others.

While some people who hoard books, such as Dalrymple, may not appear particularly distressed by their behaviours,

their behaviors can be deeply distressing to large numbers of other people, such as spouses, other family members, mailmen, district attorneys, electricians, infantrymen, landlords, Black Panthers, fire-fighters, mom-and-pop store owners, Klansmen, bellhops, veterinary surgeons, burglars, used-automobile salespersons, leaders of the LGBT community, lumberjacks, Vietnam vets, railroad employees, ISIS soldiers, narcotics officers, plumbers, persons of color, Jehovah’s Witnesses, cleaners, sheriffs or their deputies, satanists, electrical contractors, professional gamblers, gardeners, racists, neighbors, intimate-apparel vendors, double-glazing salespersons, and city and federal authorities.

Book-hoarding compulsion

A section of Dalrymple's kitchen

Section of Dalrymple’s kitchen

can often be quite severe and even threatening.

Beyond the highly negative mental impact of BPD,

the accumulation of old, flaking, dirty, dusty, greasy, moldy and often frankly disgusting volumes creates a public safety and health issue by overwhelming people’s homes and giving rise to serious and potentially deadly fall and fire hazards, especially in the fall or winter, when the compulsion is at its most acute.

Treatment

screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-14-12-45Indicated treatment modalities where mild to moderate Dalrymple’s Disease is diagnosed include:

  • frontal leucotomy: nerve pathways in bibliobrain lobes are severed — with dispatch and some force — from those in other regions
  • Metrazol-induced convulsion therapy: sharp anti-bibliomanic shocks are administered, giving rise to uncontrollable convulsions
  • insulin coma therapy (Insulinschockbehandlung): the patient is turned hypoglycemic with repeated injected insulin, causing repeated vomiting and loss of control of the bowels, also unbearable cramps, so that book-hoarding becomes not just unpleasant but painful in the extreme

    Staircase in the Dalrymple house

    Staircase in the Dalrymple house

Dalrymple's drawing-room

Part of Dalrymple’s drawing-room