A recent post on a used book got me to thinking. Back when I was acting like a trained researcher my reading was very specialized and focused. Even so, my personal reading was eclectic. I think that’s the result of having been raised poor. With no bookstore in our town, and no Amazon (or Bookshop.org), book purchasing was catch as catch can. Since my fortunes haven’t dramatically increased in life (long story), my purchasing habits have remained pretty much the same. I’ll buy used books or movies if I can. Since these are about the only things I buy, they loom large in my mind. And the thing about buying used is that it’s often opportunistic. I can pretend it’s intentional and say I’m trying to be well-rounded, but the fact is I try to save money where I can.
This really struck me as I was reading something written by a film maker. Now, I’ve penned two books about horror films, and I tend to watch them quite a lot. What struck me about what I was reading was just how many films the writer knew. Academics can be that way—knowing everything about a subject. When researching my first book, A Reassessment of Asherah, I read everything I could find in pre-internet days about the goddess. That is a thoroughly researched book. When you’re a graduate student your job is to become as familiar as possible with your subject, no matter the language of the research (within reason). As just an editor my movies and my books are a matter of what I find in my eclectic life.
I often imagine what my life would be like if I could’ve remained a professor. In those days I read fewer full books—research is often a matter of reading only the parts relevant to your project—and certainly less fiction. I was never a well-paid academic, teaching at a small school that considered on-campus housing a large part of the compensation package. I didn’t buy many books then, either. Some of the most important ones were, you guessed it, used. I wonder if I would’ve ever have shifted my interest back to horror. During those days I didn’t need horror (it was a gothic campus and I was beginning family life). Since then I’ve become an even more eclectic person. My fascination with geology began then and still comes back when the stars are just right. And even they, I suspect, might be remnants of even older, used stars.