Harry Turner's Footnotes to Fandom
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Living With The GUP

Letter to Banana Wings, printed in Little Fanzine #2 (25/07/1996)

I am dazzled by the welter of fanac reported on the pages of BW. Fans in Romiley are today still as scarce as they were in the fifties, and I lack the energy or incentive to venture to contemporary mass-audience cons, even when they are held in the near vicinity of Liverpool.

While I can sympathise with Claire (Brialey) and her book-buying, I should warn her there is no end to this business of trying to catch up with books acquired and waiting to be read. I wouldn't claim to be anywhere near her predicament of having a backlog of 600 books to work through, but that is only the result of strict limits being imposed on my book-buying in recent years. While a pensioner, with unlimited (relatively speaking) leisure, I find I still add volumes to the GUP (Great Unread Pile) far faster than I can get round to reading 'em.

Despite being the inadvertent owner of two semis (under the same roof) and converting one exclusively to a studio/library, I perpetually run out of shelf space, and valuable reading time has periodically to be diverted to the necessity of erecting more shelves to get the books off the floor.

Though I should perhaps explain that this situation is not entirely the result of sheer acquisitiveness. In the late 70s I had eyesight problems and found that I could no longer use library facilities, partly because of the inadequate general level of lighting, and partly because my useful range of reading vision dwindled down to a small area about three inches beyond my nose. During the years in which I endured several eye operations, I gave up going to libraries and decided I needed to have essential books on my own shelves, where I could tackle them.

I eventually regained my sight, and decided to continue with this level of book-buying on a systematic basis, to cover my varied interests. A fortunate decision considering the sad state of the local library today, and the many restrictions imposed on the use of Manchester's Central Reference Library because of lack of funding.

Which is how I became a bibliophile. Gutenberg rules, OK?

—25 June 1996

LoC in the Claire Brialey/Mark Plummer zine BANANA WINGS #12, 1998.

After all I said about not taking up Maureen's invitation to re-read The Count of Monte Cristo, I foolishly thought the matter settled. Now am seduced by glowing comments in a recently received Folio Society prospectus for 1999. Hailed as their "major novel of the year" and illustrated by Russian artist Roman Pisarev ("work of unsurpassable technical virtuosity and unswerving fidelity to the romantic spirit of the book"), they say that their new edition of Monte Cristo is "destined to become one of the greatest illustrated books we have ever published". Wow! All my bibliophilic instincts are roused. I'm tempted, I'm sorely tempted...

Of course, even if I do buy it, it will, initially, finish up on the Great Unread Pile. And the problem of ever liquidating the GUP increasingly haunts my dreams in old age. Claire's 'Too Many Books...' highlights the basic problem. In my case there was a complication in the late '70s, when my vision deteriorated drastically. I found it increasingly difficult to use library facilities, and eventually was only able to read with great difficulty and a giant magnifying glass.

Some years later, after a series of operations, my sight was restored. With retirement on the horizon, I cheerfully assumed that it was merely a matter of time before I caught up with the vast backlog of reading that had piled up. Well, it's now thirteen years since I retired; I still acquire books, and the GUP persists. While I no longer entertain any serious hope that I'll ever catch up with myself, there is a certain consolation in knowing that if I need to check a fact, prompt a fading memory, seek inspiration, or look for entertainment, an appropriate volume is usually conveniently to hand.

—8th September 1998


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