The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on October 8, 1996 · Page 10
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 10

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Tuesday, October 8, 1996
Page 10
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AID TUESDAY OCTOBER 8, 1996 NEWS THE SALINA JOURNAL I, . i- The Associated Press Holland Comstock of Springfield, Mo., takes issue with a book title that refers to book collecting as a 'gentle madness.' library of Conscience Missouri man's library would make some towns envious By TRACI BAUER Springfield News-Leader SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — One should know this first about Rolland Comstock's passion: There is nothing gentle about the madness. Remember that as you stroll through his awe-inspiring aisles of books, and don't be intimidated by the big reading chairs and artwork, Comstock's intelligence or the classical music he's piped through his library. Admire the spiral staircase that leads to a second floor and relax, they're just books. Books, that is, until Comstock gets going. When the trip is over they will have become his lifetime achievements. "There are no books in this library that have to be here," Comstock says. "These books are here because I like them and consider them worthwhile." His collection holds about 50,000 items, primarily modern first-edition British and American literature. It's considered among the most unusual collections of its kind, but not for the number of books or the unique titles — although both put him among few private collectors. It's Comstock's fervor that makes people in book circles nationwide admire him. The 59-year-old Springfield tax and probate lawyer spends about 10 days a month traveling to places like Washington, New York, San Francisco and Chicago to have authors sign his books. "I feel closer to him or her if I've got the first edition," says Comstock, who seems as genuine as his limited-edition, goatskin-bound, signed copy of Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses." He paid about $75 for the book. Its price when to $3,000 one month later when the Ayatollah Khomeini sentenced the author to death for what was considered blasphemy of Islam. "But I want to get as close as possible to the writer so that he becomes a part of my biog- The Associated Press Comstock's two-level home library holds about 50,000 Items, Including childhood writings of some of his favorite writers. raphy. I've chosen him to be part of me." It doesn't seem silly to New York-based author Nicholas A. Basbanes, who wrote "A Gentle Madness," an expert's analysis of book cultures and collections. "I love the guy," Basbanes says of Comstock. "This man takes it to a new dimension. Having the book is not enough. He has to embrace the authors." Comstock takes issue with Basbanes' title. "This madness is not gentle. There's nothing gentle about it," says Comstock, his eyes shining above his reading glasses. Comstock describes himself as a "completist" — insisting that being one makes him "doomed to madness." Of about 20 favorite authors he says: "I want every single, solitary thing they've ever written in their whole life. I'd like to go back even to the grade school and get their work." That's no joke. "He has items in his library that the authors themselves don't even have anymore," says Terri Merz, co-owner of Chapters bookstore in Washington, which Comstock frequents for book signings. "He stops-at nothing." Comstock runs his hand over spine after spine as he walks by books on custom-designed library shelves. "Amis is now dead, so I no longer have to worry about (collecting) him," he says of British author Kingsley Amis, not to be confused with son Martin Amis. Comstock has a complete collection of books from both Amises. That means advance readers' proofs, hardbacks, paperbacks, British editions and American editions. Comstock spent about $200,000 constructing his library, specially designed to hold the weight of the books. It required adding a section to his already-large home, which sits on 10 acres just north of Springfield. An upstairs part of the original home has suffered minor structural damage because the room wasn't built to hold thousands of books. Comstock, the son of a Springfield firefighter, opened a used bookstore when he was in high school. He ran the bookstore through his college years, which he spent at Drury College earning a bachelor of arts degree in political science and French. He taught high school French for a year in Mountain Grove. Then, while he was studying for his master of arts degree in British history in Kansas City, his father talked him into also going to law school. He wishes now he would have gotten a Ph.D. in literature, which he describes as a "union card" that might allow him to teach. For now he'll keep collecting. He'll proudly remain the fanatical, completist bibliophile he is. He glances around for his wife, Alberta, and whispers: "I know we're close to out (of space), but I'm afraid to tell her." V INTERNET Intern photographer gets shot of hostage drama By The Associated Press ROSEBURG, Ore. — A newspaper photo intern took to the back roads when police closed ', off Interstate 5 to negotiate with a man holding a 7-year-old girl hostage inside an overturned car. By hitching a fide on a tractor from a farmer and hiding behind a tree on his property, The News-Review's Amarin White was able to use her telephoto lens to get the only photo of the girl dashing away after police sharpshooters killed the man. White's photo showed the girl's face as she ran to safety, arms flung wide. The photo showed at least three police rifles still trained on the car as officers closed in. Although it was too late to use the photo for The News-Review's afternoon edition, the newspaper decided the photo could not wait In Burma, surfing the Net can put you in jail Regime has banned networking computers to try to stop dissidents By TED BARDACKE The Financial Times orary consul in Burma for several European countries and a supporter of democracy activists, died in prison after serving six weeks of a three-year sentence. His crime — unauthorized use of a fax machine. for the next day's issue. The images were scanned into computers at The News-Review and transmitted digitally to The Associated Press, and from there to member newspapers. It was widely displayed, including on the front page of Friday's Salina Journal. White, 28, freelanced for the AP in Portland before starting The News-Review internship in July. BANGKOK, Thailand — Western computer users may complain about the charges for accessing the Internet, but their costs will never be as high as those risked by most users in Burma. There, surfing the Net can lead to prosecution and seven to 15 years in prison. The military regime's State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) has outlawed the possession of a computer with networking ability without authorization. Prison terms of similar lengths may be imposed on those "obtaining or sending" via a computer information on a range of subjects including state security, the economy and national culture. Aimed directly at Burmese dissidents who have made the information superhighway one of their most effective tools in campaigning against the SLORC, members of unauthorized computer clubs might receive a minimum of three years in jail. In June, James Nichols, hon- '"WreFor You&inc<!&906"J Enjoy dinner, we've gotaJlattire! Bengtson 730 N. 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