Saturday, January 29, 2011


A friend of mine has about 150 cats. He doesn't actually know how man). My friend is resigned to living in the basement of his large house in Boston, with the cats occupying the upper two floors. He makes no effort to neuter the animals, so that they continue to proliferate. At one time, helped by friends, he was careful about acquiring and disposing of the cat litter. Of late, though, as he has become somewhat more vague mentally, he has neglected this responsibility. I have not visited him for some time, but I can imagine that the sanitary conditions are appalling.

My friend is not alone. A current series on cable TV deals with animal hoarding. It is usually of dogs and cats, but one man had 150 or more rats. It is postulated that these individuals have had some traumatic occurrence in their relations with other human beings, and so seek consolation with animals. In some cases, their spouses have fled, or are planning to do so. Often the animal hoarders are overweight, suggesting that they seek to compensate for their lack of love in other ways.

Animal hoarding is a subspecies of hoarding in general. The Collier Brothers, who died in East Haarlem a good many years ago, oppressed by their weight of paper (mainly books and newspapers), are a famous example.

Naturally, with my 14,000 books the thought has occurred to me that I might suffer from this malady. However, over the last three years I got rid of some 6,000 items and I keep getting rid of more. In addition, the books are all neatly shelved, and I keep the apartment clean (at least by bachelor standards). So I do not seem to fit the fill.

In fact, the urge to collect is virtually a human universal. And this passion has proved socially useful. Many important private art collections have made their way to museums, where we all can enjoy them.

Still, there seem to be fuzzy edges. What about collecting human beings? Not too many examples spring to mind, though the collectives of the 1970s might be an example. How about nursing homes, though? This is a type of collecting that one cannot easily dispense with. After all, in this society at least, one cannot simply call up animal control to deal with the problem.

Well, I fervently hope that it won't come time for me to be "collected" in this way.



Blogger Arsinoe said...

My latest solution to the book hoarding/collecting problem came in the form of a gift: a new Kindle 3G. At first I feared this would lead to more buying, but most of my 'new' books are free downloads--classics that have been scanned by volunteers.

The real advantage of the new gadget is that it has restored the sheer joy of voracious reading, something that failing vision had robbed. The sharp contrast, the ability to adjust font-size, and the voice-feature re-opened a world that seemed to be closing.

An unexpected bonus has been instant gratification of my reading wishes. For example, the other night at the opera, a full libretto, in French and English, was instantly in my hands--and free, too.

With each addition to my digital library, one (or more) traditional books are given away. The leather cover feels so good in my hands, that I no longer miss the dusty paper bound volumes.

8:09 PM  

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