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High blood

Married to a bibliophile, and liking it

/ 12:08 AM February 18, 2017

In the last Anvil Publishing warehouse sale we went to last year, my husband of 33 years picked up a copy of the martial-law memoir “Subversive Lives” by the Quimpo siblings to add to the pile of books he had chosen and arranged at the checkout counter. I protested, saying we had a copy at home, heavily marked with a highlighter because I used it as reference for an article I had written for this paper.

He said it was for that reason he was buying a “clean” copy. I had “dirtied” our copy! Boy, was I put in my place for my reading habits!

His purchases filled a big box. They were worth four figures, bargains all, some priced as low as P5. We took a tricycle to the Pasig home to park the box for eventual transport to Baguio.

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That seemed small potatoes compared to the amount he shelled out at the Ateneo de Manila University Press sale, where the costs of a number of items were slashed by as much as 80 percent.

The family geek isn’t a compulsive buyer. He sent a private message to the Facebook page of the press and requested a list of titles on sale. He checked this against what he already read or had on his shelves. Then he computed how much he would spend for his trip from Baguio to Manila and back (with a senior’s discount). His logic drove me batty. I just wanted to get my hands on a handful of poetry titles as his promised Christmas gift.

He said that by computing the travel and food expenses against the cost of the books purchased, he could see that he more than broke even with the savings from the sale. Ay, ganun? I said, scratching my impractical head.

The grinning cashier loudly declared the sum when it was the husband’s turn to pay for his selections. Heads turned. I was wide-eyed at the amount due. Husband didn’t flinch. He just asked if the press accepted a credit card (it did).

The books’ weight was triple that of our five-year-old grandchild. Press director Karina Bolasco said if she only had a car, she’d have us driven to the Ateneo gate where we could get a cab. Instead, she told one of the staff to hail a tricycle to take us to Katipunan Avenue.

While husband rode side saddle behind the driver, the box of books lay atop my feet. I prayed that I wouldn’t emerge from the vehicle with blackened toes.

All those books have pride of place in his library. He has been going through each at a pace of one book finished every two to three days, whereas I leave book markers in several half-read books.

What I’m saying in this Valentine season is how I count myself fortunate to have a bibliophile—nay, a bibliomaniac—in my life. While other women complain of their husbands’ roving eye, gambling, or drinking, I have a man whose ideas of pleasure are reading and puttering around the garden, time and weather permitting.

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On hearing of husband’s book finds, writer Gilda Cordero Fernando advised that we have the foundation of our house strengthened so the books don’t tumble down our heads at the hint of an earthquake.

Our daughter complains now and then about the amount of baggage we as a family have accumulated through the years, and airs the need to clear space as her own young daughter grows and builds her library.

Recently, my brother Junic in Canada shipped a box of goods to us. Among the chocolates and nuts were children’s books that his college-age kids had outgrown. Some of these once belonged to my children; my mother and sisters brought them to Canada when Junic’s children were small.

Junic added more titles to the loot, so when my grandchild, grandniece and grandnephew come over for a visit, they have something for their quiet activity. At ages five, six and four, respectively, they know where to return the books after use. Who knows? Their own kids may just inherit these, too.

In her article “Bibliomania: The strange history of compulsive book buying” for The Guardian, Lorraine Berry wrote: “Perhaps today, bibliomania does not feel like an irrational behavior, as books have become less venerated and libraries rarer. Rather, as it was for others before us, it is a careful act of preservation for those who come after.”

Elizabeth Lolarga, 61, is a freelance writer and high school teacher.

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