Men can truly be weird and I speak as a male myself. Three books that I’ve recently read provide an uncomfortable insight into the psyche of men who like to collect things. Women hoard; Men collect. This passion leads to destitution, the break up of families and social isolation. Inevitably the day comes when he has to choose between giving up the pursuit or going insane.

ErrorSimon Garfield begins his autobiography as a stamp collector on the doorstep of a counsellor’s office, with his album under his arm and a divorce pending. He charts his fascination with British stamps that have errors in printing that has has led to him spending thousands. Worst of all, as he nears completion, he starts to wonder what he will do with his life once he has succeeded. Perhaps the worse fate to give a man is to fufill his dreams.

The father in To See Every Bird doesn’t hoard things, but has an equally expensive and time involving hobby that plays havoc with his social life and sanity. He merely wants to catch a glimpse of every species of bird that currently exists. Not only does this take him around the world, over the decades he also gets to see several species that are now extinct. Again the question is asked at the end – what is it all for? We leave dad musing on beginning a new and equally enthralling subject of study: butterflies.

AchtungAchtung Schweinehund is a much more humorous look at the author’s fascination with military toys from Action Man, through Airfix fgures and the bloodthirsty novels of Sven Hassel, right up to the rigorous demands of wargaming and military modelling.

At the end he too wonders, when he calculates how much time he has spent painting and assembling model soldiers, if it has been all for nothing. Yet when one considers that the average Briton will spend ten years of their life watching television we have to ask who and what exactly is a waste of time?

2 thoughts on “Obsessives

  1. Philip 9 July 2008 / 8:48 am

    I found this very interesting and enjoyable although I don’t know about collecting being just a male thing as it depends on what is collected. I recall seeing on television a wom an who collected thimbles and it transpired there were clubs of thimble collecting women all over the globe. As well I understand some people – largely women – collect salt and pepper shakers and have whole cabinets devoted to them. At least that is a bit more savoury than the appalling novels of Sven Hassel and his lip smacking tales of Nazi butchery!

  2. Donna 9 July 2008 / 9:35 am

    I live in a bit of a collecting household. The two passions are Star Wars figures and Blythe dolls.

    It’s good when you can understand each others enthusiasms, but while my partner keeps toys in their original packaging, I am probably not a true collector cos I unwrap everything to display it.

    There’s definitely something humorous and unhinged about the collecting impulse … which should make for good reading.

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