The period 1988-1999 was one of great difficulty and there were times when I had to consider selling my books. It was a wrenching decision - and my collection was no where near the size or value of Leif’s. I resisted, muddling along somehow, finding money someplace else, or just letting debt slide as I hunkered down in my house of books. The books comforted me; they were my friends. I think I also had the inchoate sense that to sell was to admit failure, not as a collector but as an adult. My self-worth was directly tied to the collection.
But there comes a time, and it came for me, when an extremely cold shower and hard slap are necessary to awaken dormant reality. The books have to go. It was, without over-dramatizing the situation, one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make. I made it and began to sell off, a few books at a time, the whole of my collection to a dealer I knew and trusted ...
And then the most amazing thing happened: My life opened up. It was as if I had been clinging to a sinking rock to keep it (and myself) afloat. When I let go, I rose to the surface, alive and able to breathe.
I’ve become superstitious about establishing a new collection; I don’t want to mess with karma. The comfort I feel amongst rare and antiquarian books is satisfied by my work in the trade; I’m surrounded by them every day. I don’t need to own them.
Gertz's words echo not just psychological but religious language. And while I suspect that addictions to various kinds of objects and substances could be depicted similarly, it seems that experiences with books are especially susceptible to being described this way.