Friday, 7 October 2011

Obsessive, Anal, Insane, or Just Human?

Someone on the internets pointed out that I might be a wee bit obsessive. This was in response to my recent discovery of Ali Smith, author of Hotel World and The Accidental. I read her latest book last weekend and loved it so much I resolved to read her entire canon at once. I drew up a list of her books and got Laura (the woman I live with) to fetch them from the Glasgow Uni Library. Luckily, or unluckily, they had all her books in stock.

So I set about reading them, one per day. On top of this, I had to write 1000 words of my novel per day, eat at designated times and go outside to fetch utilities. It seemed a little challenging but I like the discipline and sense of accomplishment that follows such an undertaking. So I performed this heroic reading task, omitting one book of short stories through exhaustion. Q: Does this count as obsessive, or merely an act of readerly love?

Then it occurred to me: I’ve been carrying out this sort of obsessive, pointless behaviour all my life. It also occurred to me I probably share these afflictions with other beings. So in the spirit of sharing it might help to catalogue some of this obsessive/anal behaviour. I think there’s a marked difference between anal and obsessive. Who knows where I stand. For example:

  1. I used to make collage cassette tapes, mixing music with sound effects and radio clips. If a noise, cut-in or sound was not perfect I would erase this microsecond of sound and record it again and again. No one listened to these tapes but me.
  2. When I was a video game addict, I always had to complete games in the most perfect way possible. In the case of Crash Bandicoot, this involved resetting the console whenever I fell down a pit and lost my shot for the perfect score and gems.
  3. When playing someone a song I love, they must listen to it in silence, and may not speak until the final seconds of the running time are up, even with songs that fade out.
  4. Until recently, I could never give up on a book, even if I hated it from the beginning. I persisted in the belief that my own weakness as a reader was at fault, and at some point the story would captivate me, and readerly heaven would dawn.
  5. Books with heavily creased spines stick out on one side. I have to sandwich them so tight in the bookcase, I can pull the stuck-out side in line so it becomes as straight as the other books. I also have lists of which books have problem spines and a list of which books to replace with brand new hardback editions.

I have also—through Laura’s doing—been sucked back into watching popular comedy drama Due South. This childhood favourite is so irresistible to me, I’ve had to set aside a spare our or two to catch up on old episodes among the reading and writing. So to cut a long story short, I haven’t left the flat much. I’m sure Glasgow’s nice. I’ve yet to find out.


  1. I'm guilty of quite a few of those... I don't give up on books even if they're dreadful (although I've chosen well for the last year or so). I've recorded tons off the radio (I think I might have finally binned the tapes now after moving out. Hard.) I also like to dwell on one part of my life for a month, then blog about it. I think we both need to explore our respective surroundings a bit more!

  2. Indeed. I've also developed a new habit of binning every first draft I write. So much for that writing career.

  3. No, I'm not that picky. Except for the third one. If I want you to listen to a song, you're going to listen to it, not talk, move, or get distracted!

  4. *giggles* I think probably you nudge toward the anal there, my friend. Are you a Virgo, by any chance? I am guilty of #4, but am for the most part, relatively flexible.

  5. Um, I think these are all perfectly normal. I slap people who talk during a song I've lovingly shared with them. You can bet I'll not speak until the last note has faded. I cringe when I see bent spines.

  6. Alex: Right on!
    Hart: I'm a Scorpion with a weedy sting.
    Allen: Thank God I'm not alone.

  7. I am innocent until proven guilty of any of the above. Which you can't. Because you haven't yet painted my town with WD-40. So there.

    I may think I'm a perfectionist, but in reality, I'm a diplomat (and by "in reality", I mean "metaphorically"). I don't know if it's my own mediocrity that over the years allowed me to drop the standards from "perfect" to "juuust a little over what I can realistically achieve", or if I should blame society. Probably not the latter, as it is the diplomat's heavy burden to agree with everyone, even society.

  8. Also, I should probably say something about the actual post: I agree with you.

  9. I say blame society. If you can't mountain climb while learning Latin while raising nine kids and running Canada, well . . . you can't blame yourself!