I was one of those kids(1) who, when they wanted to look something up, would open the dictionary, or the encyclopaedia, or something, and their eyes would just wander towards a greatly amusing and fascinating yet completely irrelevant entry, which they would consequently read, and the entry after that, and another, ten pages further, which would prove even more fascinating, and in two hours they would finally have the startling realisation of ‘omg so laaaaaaate, whyyyyyyyyy’.
This has not changed in the least, only the obsession and compulsion has been upgraded to something more compulsive, more obsessive and more deranged. Now it’s happening all the time, not just when I open a dictionary. I have to carry at least two colours of post-its, in case I feel the need to stick a pink note about something to the closest flat surface I can take with me. I always carry pencils and an extra box of leads, because you never know.
There’s paper everywhere in my living space. Online, I follow all the links. Usually, I even read the comments(2).
All this pales in comparison to what happens when I start reading. Every book, fiction or not, is a list of things that can be looked up, allusions, associations, citations, facts, names, events, animals, plants, everything. I can’t read any further if I don’t look up every historical personage, though toponyms are something I’m as a rule uninterested in. It’s ludicrous to propose that one can continue reading without seeing a photo of a plant one has never heard of before. Every citation’s author has to be looked up, and if the citation was fun or any good at all, the possibility of acquiring the author’s books has to be meticulously considered. Covers of individual editions are compared and rated (why Alberto Manguel’s books have such ugly covers, by the way? Ugh. I’m starting to think I’ll have to wait for a new edition or something), availability and shipping times noted down. Bookmarks are created, the Delicious account swells, but already there are ten further links to follow. Link link link.
Very frequently what starts as an ostensibly simplistic task of identifying an author of a quote will turn into one-day back and forth between Wikipedia, Worldcat, JSTOR and several other places, ending in hundreds of pages, articles, and a migraine.
(Also, soon I will need better glasses)
(Also, where’s my coffee)
It seems like a small mercy when an author provides footnotes, or appendices or indices on his or her own (hello there, Georges Perec), but in fact this only leads to more research, and more madness, because now there is virtually no excuse NO EXCUSEEEEEE not to look everything up, including minor, obscure Impressionist (blergh, is what sums up my thoughts on Impressionism), minor obscure German mediaeval poets (nom nom nom), and tedious theological treatises (yaaawn). An index: it only means the autor is asking, very very politely, to look everything up.
This is, more or less, why I haven’t been posting much recently.
Also, why I probably should give up reading BUT I CAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN’T ;_;
(1) The reason why I know I wasn’t the only one is that we exchanged anecdotes in secondary school, over our dictionaries.
(2) Not recommended.