Monday, February 16, 2009

The Error World: An Affair with Stamps by Simon Garfield

Flap Copy from ARC:
From the Penny Red to the Blue Mauritius, generations of collectors have been drawn to the mystique of rare stamps. Once a widespread pastimes of schoolboys, philately has increasingly become the province of older men obsessed with the shrewd investment, the once-in-a-lifetime find, the one elusive beauty that will complete a collection and satisfy an unquenchable thirst.

As a boy, Simon Garfield was fixated on errors- rare pigment misprints that created ghostly absences in certain stamps. When this passion reignited in his mid-forties, it consumed him. In the span of a couple of years he amassed a collection of errors worth upwards of forty thousand pounds, at the same time pursuing not only this secret passion, but a romantic one as his marriage disintegrated."

I was excited to read this book, figuring either it would be a great memoir, or a great book about stamps, but this book was neither. Though I did enjoy reading about young Simon's growing love for stamps, I would have like the personal element of the story to be introduced much much earlier. After a promising tidbit about the role of stamps in ending his marriage, Garfield then reverted to long reflections on stamps; his wife and his adult relationships are never even factored into the story.

Perhaps a more knowledgable reader will enjoy the detailed discussions of specific stamps, but for me, the appeal of this book was supposed to be the personal connection, an element I found lacking. Though Garfield is an excellent writer, I just didn't feel a connection to the story or to his obsession with stamps and other collections.

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