He pushed open the door marked STAFF ONLY. He took a look at the
noticeboard to see if there was anything new. There wasn’t.
A number of shoplifter alerts was posted with crude characteristics:
smelly, Irish, steals Atlases. Or: horn-rim glasses, long overcoat,
sandwiches, fond of gardening. Some sales and turnover stats.
Vacancies at other branches. He opened the cupboard where he knew
the coffee would be and got the kettle to boil. Into the jar that
served as receptacle for coffee money, he counted out the change,
two dimes and a nickel.
Not caring about coffee was a feat he congratulated himself on.
What the reputable brands were, he had no idea. He didn’t waste
a second fussing over coffee, how many spoonfuls, how much water,
how much milk, how much sugar. Coffee was something many people
could get worked up about. He had one over them.
He shot through some new books, and then tried a few phone calls.
But no one was there.
So he sipped his coffee and enjoyed the comfy chair.
He felt OK, he told himself. Truthfully, no, not okay . . . more
than OK . . . he felt good. At ease. He spent fifteen minutes
thinking how unimportant birthdays were. Then several minutes
considering whether he might be wrong. Followed by half an hour
pondering that sitting on your own in a bookshop office on your
birthday with a couple of bananas and half a loaf of half dry
bread for supper, although he felt fine about it, might seem wretched
to others, and was he worried about looking miserable? Did what
other people think matter? Eventually he got tired of thinking
There was a pleasant atmosphere to the room. Snug. It was a pity
he didn’t work here, but anyway, he had to get to work.
The next morning he emerged unobserved from Natural History and
walked out and made his way towards Port Authority.
As he was crossing a quiet street, a skinny black man approached
‘I’ve got something for you.’ He made no response and strode on
in that unlistening way that forms big cities, sensing his failure
to look poor, crazy and dangerous enough to repel contact. The
poor and crazy he was pretty good at but he was not getting anywhere
near dangerous. But he stopped when the black man offered him
He looked into the trailer, and irrefutably it was an Indian elephant.
A young elephant, young enough to fit into the horse-trailer,
old enough to look disgruntled and tired of the elephant game.
Shaking his head he carried on.
‘You need this elephant,’ exhorted the salesman, transmitting
such urgency that for a moment, he experienced the conviction
that what he did indeed need was an elephant, this elephant. This
emotion vanished as quickly as it had come. That was what it was
all about essentially: people telling you you needed things, or
that you enjoyed things, and then discovering that you didn’t.
‘A hundred dollars. A hundred dollars is all I’m asking.’ A bargain.
Too good to pass up. But he didn’t need an elephant, a dodgy one
to boot, that much he had learned in his thirty-three years. He
tended to be defined in the negative; he was someone who didn’t
need an elephant. The salesman was almost by definition a more
interesting person since he needed to sell an elephant, although
more desperate. Above all, he didn’t have a place to put the elephant,
since he didn’t have a place to put himself. But perhaps that
was the greatest gift, the knack of allowing yourself to be convinced
and staying that way.
He went to his locker, and rummaged round. He liberated the Bookcruncher
T-shirt from the grip of other apparel and changed.
He didn’t like the T-shirt anymore, he found it embarrassing.
Bookcruncher in a bold arc at the top, the first
two lines of the Iliad in the middle and underneath in lower case,
Fear Me. It was the kind of item you had made when you
were young and belligerent. A woman who had started lecturing
him on dress sense in a diner despite his flagrantly reading two
books to deflect her had been horrified to discover, when, under
interrogation, he had calculated that the T-shirt was twelve years
old. Genuinely horrified. But he didn’t throw it away, since he
never threw anything away, and like most unwanted items of clothing
it was indestructible.
Now he had the option of going round the corner to the Paramount
Hotel for a quick wash, or going to Sylvana’s for a more comprehensive
job; he was on for a shower, but the deal with Sylvana was doing
the washing-up and dusting in exchange for towellage. Sylvana
had a lot of books which were phenomenally difficult to dust and
since he had now read all of them he found it hard to get involved.
He strolled over to the Paramount and entered the Gents where
he stripped to the waist, freshened up, flossed lengthily and
realised he didn’t feel very industrious. He went there regularly
and had never been bothered. Unintentionally, he supposed, he
managed poor and crazy as done by the rich and foreign.
Afterwards it was the Cuban restaurant and the special. He always
ordered the special; this relieved him of the duty of studying
the menu, and the staff of trying to unload the special. He was
up to 1884, and he reached for his copy of The Remarkable
History of Sir Thomas Bart which was remarkable only in
being boring, and The Story of Charles Strange, which
wasn’t strange but boring.
The garlic chicken and rice with black beans came after only three
pages. As he made the first incision he wondered whether his father
They said you only became a full man once your father died. One
afternoon would he suddenly feel a surge of power out of the blue
and know? That would be the only way he’d get any news about his
He wondered how often he had that thought? Once every day for
ten years? Twice every day? Three times every two days? How much
time was that he had wasted? For five minutes a go? Ten minutes?
You wasted so much time with the same thoughts. People complained
about having to do the same things, about having to wear the same
clothes, but they never had any problem thinking the same thoughts.
He realised this was another thought almost as frequent as the
In the booth opposite him, a man in a porkpie hat reading a newspaper
complained about the special.
That was the one thing he could thank his father for: he could
and would eat anything without a murmur. It was not so much that
his father had been a bad cook, but when his mother had left,
the food had always been tasteless and stunningly unvarying: sausages,
black pudding, and pork chops. Other carnal effects in danger
of going off in his father’s shop had been thrown in very occasionally.
He wondered how often he thought that? Every time he saw someone
fussing in a restaurant or leaving their food. Mealtimes, he had
learned a long time ago, were something to be crossed.
You were granted immunity to your own thoughts, he decided, it
was close to impossible to bore yourself. If you had to sit next
to someone who would regularly say that’s one thing I can
thank my father for and mealtimes are something to be
crossed you would be gibbering within two days. So maturity
is: when you stop having new sermonlets and you just drive ceaselessly
round the roundabouts you’ve already built.
Nevertheless he relished the rice pudding, bruised with a little
cinnamon, and the coffee: it was good to go wild periodically.
He mostly avoided the final thought of the paternal package –
what was sad was not that they hated each other, but simply that
there was nothing there. He had sonned adequately and he wished
his father could have pretended a little. After some years he
had been granted a partial understanding of his father, when,
on a train, he had seen one of his friends from school. He had
not talked to him for five years, but he had not gone over to
talk to him: he had nothing to say. It was funny, was it not,
in a world where a satellite could tell your brand of toothpaste,
where you could blast a million words ten thousand miles away
in the lowering of a finger, where you could wallow in sitcom
from any continent, where there was no hiding and no silence,
he didn’t know where his father was and he had nothing to say
‘You read a lot,’ said the behatted kvetch indicating the two
novels he had open. He nodded, because there was no denying it
and because he didn’t want to put up the ante for a conversation
‘Books aren’t life.’
‘No, they’re better,’ he replied and flipped through the thirty-two
library cards in his wallet to remove his one credit card to pay.
This was twenty-first century vagrancy. An ocean away, in the
rain small sums of money carrying his name made the pilgrimage
to a bank in Cambridge; meanwhile in London, small American debts
trudged to an address where a cheque would be signed in an acceptable
approximation of his signature by Elsa, giving him the right to
He felt good. Rice pudding and coffee goodness. No one else in
New York. Probably no one else in the world.
On his way to the Public Library, he stopped off at the Post Office
to see what had appeared. One cheque, three months late. A book
to review; that would be three hundred words saying what it was
like, and three hundred words saying what it wasn’t like: fine.
An invitation to a conference.
Several letters from Elsa – a birthday batch of correspondence.
These days he always suffered from a temptation to put her letters
straight into the bin, because over the last few years there had
been nothing new. She had the same job, the same flat, and she
employed the same expressions of concern and coaxing. He would
have thought she would have got as tired of writing these sugardrops
as he was of reading them but no; they were her roundabouts.
But then Elsa was tenacious and that was only one of her virtues.
Crunchy, you can’t expect me to make the first move,
was a phrase that turned up every fifth letter and was, he surmised,
totally unironic despite Elsa having made every move from one
to a thousand, and having used every weapon in the feminine arsenal
from the smooth pebble to the shoulder-launched missile.
A wake of pink envelopes, cabinetloads of cards and other affection-heavy
baubles had trailed him around the world: marzipan hippos, beanbag
lions, furry diaries, a Bible keyring (surely the peak of incongruity
since he had nowhere to live), chocolate breasts, tins of baked
beans, inflatable lips, wind-up miniature Christmas trees, all
bearing the message of softness. During periods of intense activity,
she wrote almost every day; the bestial incarnations of the heart
hunted him down: smiling bears, cheery dolphins came with the
messages for someone special, thinking of you makes
me happy. Along came the dejected rabbits, lugubrious moles
and forlorn kittens with the tag, missing you. Elsa’s
supply of any object or animal capable of an alliance with endearment
was apparently endless despite her being a university graduate,
thirty-two, a woman of good taste and half of her communications
failing to reach him.
No real reason why she had chosen him. He knew his chief merit
was that he had no demerits. He wouldn’t beat her, he wouldn’t
go chasing after other women, he wouldn’t drink or blow their
money at the bookie’s, he wouldn’t make her watch football on
the television, or defecate on the floor. Like the legless tortoise
in the joke, you would find him where you left him. He had been
tempted by Elsa’s repeated insistence that there was room aplenty
in her flat, that he could do his work there. He wouldn’t take
up much space, and his upkeep was minimal. It wouldn’t be a bad
The only reason he didn’t take it up was that he didn’t want it;
and he knew if he yielded it would remove the possibility of her
finding a proper happiness. Was it nobility or just recognition
that he would be nulling her life?
Every now and then silences of a few months’ duration opened up,
while Elsa’s unsuccessful romances would be digested. A male silhouette
would be spotted peripherally after Elsa went off on a holiday.
A one-off reference to a forester met on a beach, a promoter met
on a cruise. Her liaisons seemed to be only as long as hotel beds.
It was good to see that Upstairs didn’t just punish the freaks.
While Elsa’s looks would never stop traffic, she was intelligent,
employed, considerate, a good cook, had a job in which she met
people all the time, but she still spent nights prowling a double
bed, although all she wanted to do was to hose a man down with
He never understood those who thought being different was stimulating
or valuable. Anyone who had been on the outside knows how cold
He went over to the Public Library, found a quiet corner and loaded
up. In the right Three Weeks in Mopetown, in the
left If I Were God. People often looked at him, but
no one said anything.
The academic roundabout came, as it did nearly every day.
Why hadn’t he got an academic job? Probably because he didn’t
want one. But he loved stepping out of the dark and shooting them
in the back. Repeatedly. He loved the unfairness of it.
He would start off by mentioning something obvious, so they hoped
they had an audience worth showing off to. Then he would usher
in something rare, to show he was heavy, to get an eyebrow raised.
Finally something truly obscure, only one or two copies in existence.
To really scare them. it was easy. He did the nineteenth century
people by going back to the eighteenth; he did the eighteenth
by using the seventeenth, the seventeenth clobbered by the sixteenth.
It was easy, you only had to move a mere ten or fifteen years
out of their fief to unsettle them. Then some would smile with
relief, and say it was not their beat. How could you understand
writers if you didn’t know what came before, what they read? What
the people they read had read? Those who took refuge in their
era, he would go back and strafe again to show them that was no
protection. That’s why he did the reviews.
He put down If I were God. 1884 and counting. Getting
the books in the right order was impossible, and he couldn’t be
as neat as he’d like to be. He had to zig-zag.
The Idea had come to him thirteen years ago on the third floor
of the University Library, reading a letter by the extremely dead
Pope Pius II : ‘Without letters, every age is blind.’ And he wondered
what you would see if you had all the letters, if you had read
everything ever written? He was already living in the library
by that point, which was perhaps the start.
Or had Paris been the start? He had backpacked there with Tom.
Short of money, deeply uncool, they wandered around hoping to
accrue chic and excitement. They had been amazed at the number
of hotels in the Quartier Latin and how full they all were. After
two hours of walking around, they found one that had a free room,
but they didn’t have the money. They were offered a lesson in
why people booked rooms at the height of the tourist season.
Three times they had walked past the bookshop; he had astonished
himself with his self-control. The fourth time, he suggested to
Tom they go in.
He had known about Shakespeare & Co and what it was. He had
been young then, fairly ignorant, but alert enough to know about
Joyce and Eliot being bandits. Once inside he was disabled by
the choice, but Tom who had no time for books, went up to the
counter to ask the crumpled man for hotel ideas. They had never
been in Paris before let alone the bookshop, but the man had clearly
seen them a thousand times.
He sighed: ‘If you’re really stuck, you can stay here for one
night. That’s one night.’
So he spent his first night in Paris in a bookshop, or more significantly
he spent his first night in a bookshop in Paris. Tom went out
to have a kebab, and then returned to talk to two American girls
who were also in for the night and eating yoghurt, while Shakespeare
& Co became his favourite bookshop. He didn’t eat and he didn’t
sleep all night because he was so fascinated by the American editions
he had never seen before.
He had watched the sun come up over Notre Dame and remembered
how supposedly Faust had arrived in Paris, his baggage bulging
with newly printed Gutenberg Bible to sell, and how he had been
encouraged to get lost by the Parisian manuscript guilds who didn’t
want their action cut into.
It had unstoppered him. You didn’t have to leave when the bookshop
closed. You stayed and carried on reading. He was already spending
so much time in local bookshops that he was pegged as a shoplifter,
but now he realised he could spend many more hours in bookshops.
But he hadn’t sensed it was the start. Just holiday fun.
The start had been in attendance that evening in the University
Library, when he had been accidentally locked in. Then he had
started staying in occasionally throughout the night because he
didn’t want to leave. He was never discovered; the staff came
around at closing time, but it was easy to hide in the nocturnal
stacks of a quiet top floor and then emerge unremarked in the
True the phone call from his father had been part of the start.
After his first term, he found himself cut off. His father had
missed out on university; had at sixteen, as he often publicized,
gone straight into butchering. The encouragement he had received
to go to university, he discovered, had merely been encouragement
to go. He found himself adrift with just enough change to fill
a trouser pocket
Hardly the greatest cruelty the world had seen. He could have
found a job, but he decided to cut his expenses by giving up his
room, putting most of his stuff into storage, staying in the library
at night, reading most of the time, then walking over to the college
in the morning where he would use one of the communal bathrooms;
followed by some shopping, then a saunter back to the library.
He had none of the standard student expenses: he didn’t go anywhere.
From arriving at Cambridge till he left, he didn’t leave, apart
from once accompanying Elsa and some others in a countryside foray
for pubs. He didn’t go to the cinema or clubbing. Buying clothes
was out. Eating properly was out. Buying books was out. Boozing
was out. There was the grant, the scholarship and the hardship
fund. He did some work in the University Library during the holidays,
so everyone was used to seeing him around. And his life wasn’t
just the UL; he’d pop into the other libraries for some variety
and a change of pace.
An uncomfortable awareness touched him that there was no one else
who had his tastes: that he was a part of the apart. Elsa was
constantly friendly to him, but they had little overlap. Nevertheless
he had some fun. One afternoon he was picked up in Silver Street
and conducted back to a bedsit by a woman who worked as a cleaner
at the hospital. ‘Uncle Phil,’ she said addressing him as he struggled
to loosen her grip on his arm and to remember whether he had ever
seen her before. ‘Fancy seeing you here, why not come back to
Some great passion, he had imagined, was engulfing him; for a
week he tended only amorous poetry, but of course Uncle Phil could
be found on any street at any time. He learned a number of things:
he cottoned on to why most people would do almost anything for
sex, that her interest in him had nothing to do with him, and
that everyone gets one free fuck.
When she had seized him he had almost shaken her off because he
had books to read, but he was glad he had got that out of the
Then there was the party when just as he was regretting not staying
in the library, he was so bored, two young women stripped off.
He felt like applauding, but hadn’t. The bafflement of the males
was interesting and it took him a few years to diagnose what was
going on; the free parties were either intimidated by the audacity
of undressing, or were unconcerned by women whose genitalia were
common knowledge; but inevitably, there was Kev from Belfast who
did both of them over the rickety ironing-board in the laundry-room.
Kev was the only one apart from him who didn’t complain about
the college food. It was plain even then who was going to get
He picked at a bit of bean on his Bookcruncher T-shirt, which
had fallen in and coalesced with the gable of Achilles’s A.
But he had dedicated himself to reading everything.
Then, on reflection, he realised he couldn’t do that. But everything
in English. Everything in book form. He had read a good amount,
he had been averaging three or four average books a day since
eleven. Although he had wasted some time in irrelevant topics.
He knew more about Chinese history than was healthy for anyone
but a Chinese historian, for instance.
He had never explained his mission to anyone, because he didn’t
want anyone to know if he failed, and because he wasn’t sure what
the point was. He sensed there was an answer at the end, but he
had no idea what it would be or what he would do with it. Perhaps
he would write something original. After all how can you write
something original if you haven’t read everything before?
The numbers are daunting. A few hundred books to 1500. Some ten
thousand to 1600. Eighty thousand to 1700. Three hundred thousand
to 1800. Then things go crazy. Much of it was recloaking. Much
of it was dross. Much of it was brief. But if he hadn’t come up
with the two book technique, simultaneously reading one book in
his right hand and one book in his left, he wouldn’t have got
It occurred to him that he might appear pitiful. After he had
been living in North London bookshops for four years, subsisting
on reviews and marrying Japanese women who wanted nationality
lifts, although he felt fine, he could see that people might think
spending your whole life in either bookshops or libraries was
wretched. He decided he couldn’t spend all his time in bookshops
in North London since he didn’t want his horizons stunted. So
he started touring: France, Germany and finally America.
What had he learned so far? Motion looks like progress. German
bookshops had champagne, but only in American bookshops could
you get frappuchino. And hope. Hope. Books were made of hope,
not paper. Hope that someone would read your book; hope that it
would change the world or improve it; hope that people would agree
with you, hope that people might believe you; hope that you’ll
be remembered, celebrated, hope that people would feel something.
Hope that you would learn something; hope that you’ll entertain
or impress; hope you’ll catch some cash; hope that you’ll be proved
right and hope that you’ll be proved wrong.
Unfortunately there was the problem that even if you read everything,
you don’t read it as the same person. When he first read the Iliad,
the opening was just the opening: an explanation. The anger of
Achilles: people always thought it referred to Achilles’ rage
at losing his favourite slave-girl, or losing his sidekick Patrocolus.
When he had read it first at eleven, he hadn’t read it. At seventeen
when he reapplied it was beginning to come into focus.
Yet only when he was thirty and he had been stuck in a lift, and
he had gone in for the third time had the meaning dripped through
like portly raindrops infiltrating a roof.
It was no accident that the first word in Western literature was
anger. Achilles anger. He now saw it was anger at being alive,
anger at having no choice. The Iliad was the truth,
the Odyssey the sale brochure, where you dally with
tricky women, get home and slaughter all the people who have been
giving you grief. The Iliad was the scoop: stuck
in a way you didn’t ask for, working with chumps who couldn’t
even find Troy in the first place, unable to forget that your
mother left you and that a centaur made you eat entrails, no choice,
no challenge and the knowledge that you’re not going home and
that nothing is going to make you feel better.
When he read reports of spree-killers topping themselves he saw
it wasn’t because of remorse or desire to dodge the penal system,
but despair because their actions hadn’t made them feel any better,
that they had leapt over the edge and the anger was still there.
And it ran all the way through. Gilgamesh was angry. Jahweh was
angry. Moses was angry. Pharaoh was beside himself. Electra was
incandescent. Oedipus frothing. The Ronin were hopping mad. Hamlet
was miffed. Orlando was furioso.
The problem was Upstairs . . . Karma. Kismet. Destiny. Fate. The
Fates. Parcae. Namtar. The Norns. Doom. Fortune. Providence. Luck.
Cosmo. Allah. Book of Fate. Threads. The words turned up again
and again; they were the clichés he read over and over,
not because the writers were unimaginative but because there was
no other way of putting it.
Fulhams were what you got. The dice were loaded but you had to
throw them to see how the numbers fell.
He strolled to the Barnes & Noble on Union Square.
Generally the bigger they were, the easier it was. You found a
quiet stretch of shelving just before closing time and made yourself
scarce until everyone had gone and you could get bookcrunching.
He hadn’t been caught very often. Over the years he had only been
apprehended four times and had been let off.
They had looked at him in a way he didn’t like to think about,
which suggested that either he was a failed burglar who couldn’t
get it right, or too failed an individual to want to be close
to. Only the woman in Nuneaton had called the police. ‘I’m calling
the police,’ she had hissed. He could easily have run off but
he waited, not understanding why the woman had said that if he
had been possessed of criminal intent or a guilty conscience it
would have primed him to get going or to get heavy. He hadn’t
run off, chiefly, because he had nowhere to run to. He had read
twenty pages of North and South before the constabulary
showed up. They weren’t able to get very excited with no sign
of damage, forced entry or theft. ‘We’ll say no more about it
this time,’ one said, since there really was nothing more to say.
It was not being prepared. You would fumble for a sentence in
your pocket and come out with what was there or carry on fumbling.
Walking home from school when he was eleven, two girls his age
whom he had noticed regularly walking home the other way on the
other side of the street, crossed over. ‘Is it okay if I hit you?’
the blonde had asked. He had been thinking about the question
and an answer, when the blonde’s fist impacted unpleasantly on
his jaw. He then thought what he should do. He smiled and walked
Without preparation it was sticky. In Portland once, he had been
deep into Phlegon of Tralles’ Book Of Marvels and
the Emperor Hadrian’s centaur, so engrossed and not expecting
anything since it was a humid summer two o’clock in the morning,
sleepy in a sleepy town, that he hadn’t registered another presence
in the bookshop.
His attention was disturbed by the owner, a large man clutching
a camp bed, pleading not to be killed. ‘Please don’t kill me,’
the owner repeated, sinking to his knees; puzzling since he was
only armed with a 215-page paperback and the incident with the
girl had taught him he didn’t have a fearsome aspect.
‘The air conditioning packed up at home. It’s just too hot. I
have money here, I’ll show you. I won’t tell the police anything.
Just let me live.’ He had wanted to roll out his standard story
of having been accidentally locked in, but he never had been any
better at lying than he had been at telling the truth, and the
owner was having none of it. Taking the money was the easiest
option, so he did and went to a hotel with enough books to get
himself through the next day. He could see how he might be perceived
as criminal, but he couldn’t fathom how he had made it to dangerous,
but the incident left him splattered with interestingness and
As Barnes & Noble closed, he hunkered down in Politics and
waited an hour for the building to clear of sounds. There had
never been a book that hadn’t contained fibres of other books;
to write you have to read first. Could he be a person who had
nothing of others in him? Was there anyone else who worried about
no one eating fish in the Iliad? And who remembered
the thirty-three terms of abuse for tax collectors gathered by
Pollux of Naucrates? At the same time wondering if Apuleius’s
lost novel Hermagoras would ever turn up? While not
forgetting to ponder if the De Tribus Impostoribus Mundi
had ever existed?
He then made for the luxurious armchair that had endeared Barnes
& Noble to him so much and plunged into (on the right) Singularly
Deluded and (on the left) The World’s Desire.
He got tired of it sometimes, but he kept going because he had
gone too far to go back. A bout of weakness had made him take
a job for two months, but it hadn’t made things better.
His concentration couldn’t have been that good because he heard
coughing. For a few moments he sat motionless as if that might
change something. Faintly, he detected it again. He thought about
letting coughing be coughing, but couldn’t get back into left
Reluctantly investigating, on the first floor, he could see a
thin woman dressed in mixed black. Attractive. He knew she wasn’t
staff, he was familiar with the assistants and also she had an
. . . unstaffy manner. She was reading.
Not only was she reading intently, but she held a book in her
left hand, and another in her right.
His steps startled her. Promptly, she closed the books, and slotted
them back into the shelves. ‘You must be closing,’ she said in
an appealing way. Her skin was pale, her lips gotcha red.
He wanted to say that he didn’t work here.
‘Don’t look at me that way,’ she snapped.
She set the alarms off as she left.
He concluded that he felt OK but he feared he would feel bad,
and that the badness was on its way.
Copyright © Tibor Fischer 1999
This story may not be archived or distributed further without
the author’s express permission. Please read the license.
This electronic version of Bookcruncher is published by The Richmond Review
by arrangement with the author.
For rights information, please contact The Richmond Review in the first instance. Bookcruncher appears in Tibor Fischer’s collection of short stories Don’t Read This Book if You’re Stupid
About Tibor Fischer
Tibor Fischer was born in Stockport in 1959. Brought up in London, where he now lives, he was educated at Cambridge and worked as a journalist. He is the author of Under the Frog (which won the Betty Trask Award, earned him a place on Granta‘s 1993 Best of Young British Novelists and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize), The Thought Gang and The Collector Collector. Tibor Fischer’s most recent book is Don’t Read This Book if You’re Stupid, a collection of short stories.