I started a library at the age of twelve, and in three years a third of my LPs, CDs and tape collection was stuff I hadn’t yet listened to.
That’s what an antilibrary is: the stuff in your library that you haven’t yet gotten to.
It was an exhilarating setup. The prospect of more material at my disposal, to delve into at any given point in time, excited me.
My friends found it bizarre. ‘If you buy something, you have to use it,’ they told me again and again. ‘Either listen to what you own, then buy more, or quit buying stuff altogether. Quit wasting money!’
They missed the point altogether.
‘A library is a resource,’ I explained, ‘something to use both now, in the present, and later, when the time is right. It’s a source of data and information, to access either methodically, looking for something specific, or spontaneously, playing potluck. When I come across something I like – a great novel, a kick-ass rock album, a poetry collection that features famous poets I’ve kind of heard of, anything that kindles my interest – I get my hands on it. Stash it in my shelves and wait for the right time to open it.’
Many of my friends were educated and well-rounded, yet no matter how I put it to them the logic went over their heads. Unedited publications. A disgrace.
Twenty-five plus years later, my library is still a third full of books, music and films I haven’t gotten around to yet, and I have no idea when I will. All I know is that nothing goes to waste.
It’s all about building a database. Storing titles for future reference is the best way to keep my curiosity sharp. The objects of my attention are always within reach, waiting for me to pick them out of the stacks when the time is right.
I have an awesome antilibrary, into which I dig regularly, making sure to replenish what I use with fresh material.
It’s a nifty little strategy, and I’m glad I disregarded the naysayers and stuck with it.
It wasn’t easy. I was tempted more than once to give my catalog away and clear up space but in the end my instincts prevailed. Access to knowledge was more important.
So here I am, stuck for space, though not quite. The cloud came to the rescue, and everything fit inside a few electronic devices, and that was that.
My antilibrary is now bigger than ever, digitally enhanced, backed up, and subject to analysis that only a digital framework can provide. Gone are the days of dogeared pages, margin notes, pen smudges, the mess that came with all that. I no longer waste time leafing through pages, chasing after sections that elude me. Just type in a key word and the search engine finds it. The world is bigger than ever, but also within reach.
It makes me wonder: Can there be too much art in one’s life? Is there such a thing as too much of a good thing in terms of how much culture and information one consumes?
Maybe, but it’s an excess I welcome, for better or worse.
Nicolas D. Sampson is a writer-producer based in Cyprus and the UK. His work has been published in Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel, The Scofield, LIT Magazine, and The Hong Kong Review, among others. Film projects include Behind the Mirror (writer/producer – winner Best Thriller in the Manhattan Film Festival 2015), Vita and Virginia and Show Me The Picture: The Story of Jim Marshall (executive producer). He loves Alfred Hitchcock films. And traveling. And the Cloud. And is currently working on a psychological horror script.