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Sunday Express (UK)
July 21, 2013

Who'd have thought it...

Tori Amos fantasises about being a librarian

It might not go with her hard-rock image, but the singer, 49, who found fame with "A Sorta Fairytale," loves reference books.

As told to Rachel Corcoran

"My love of books developed through my mother. She would read all kinds of books to me as a child, like Edgar Allen Poe. She read me literature, while my father had history books. However, although I do enjoy fiction every now and then, I became interested in art reference books in my early 20s when I was playing the lounges, like the LAX Marriott, for what seemed like thousands of years.

"When I had extra money I'd buy an art book. I now have more than a thousand books, and more art books than anything else. About 500 to 600 are art reference books while the rest are history, mythology or poetry, and not a lot of fiction.

"I really like the idea that people have a passion for collecting things and I always loved the idea of having a library. I have a fantasy of being a librarian; wearing a pencil skirt, sling-back shoes, hair scraped back and glasses. I imagine myself standing on a ladder and my husband coming in from riding his Triumph in his leathers and I pick out a reference book for him. I love it. All my books are alphabetical within sections. So you have Romanticism and Realism and Pre-Raphaelite; it goes on and on.

"My first art book was Gauguin, although I can't tell you why. I think there was something happening in the early Eighties on the west coast of America where I was exposed to his story and work. Possibly because he'd stopped by the west coast on the way to the Tahitian islands.

"I began to realize I heard things when I looked at art; sounds and songs started to come to me through the medium so I began to take notes. I now have so many books of ideas I've written down over 30 years, that are kept with my collection in Florida.

"My notes might be just one sentence that I've picked up from one of the art books, or it could be a two-bar phrase of music. Going to the visual arts more than the sonic arts is core to my process because then you have a clean slate. You're not listening to anything except through your eyes. Then your ears tell you what you're really seeing.

"I go to books at different times, so recently I've been going to Casper David Friedrich, a German from the Romanticism period, as well as Kandinsky. I've been spending time in Germany, so maybe there's a connection as they both did too. I've been opening myself up to their work.

"I pick more up everywhere I travel and I find art galleries are great for special editions if they're having a celebratory exhibition. I'm given books by people too. One is from a Polish journalist called Piotr Kaczkowski whose father was a photographer and published a book of pictures after the war. It's amazing when they have a personal connection to it, so it's like they're sharing something so personal with you.

"I do spend a lot of money. Some books are quite old and often very beautiful. I have a set of books that document one of the lesser-known Native American nations and their language from about 1860. Then I have some from the Thirties, which I treasure, about birds and their migration. My daughter tells me that admitting to owning books about birds isn't the image she thinks I should be pushing but bird migration is fascinating. If birds could say what they'd seen it would be far more interesting that the shows she watches.

"If people are visiting our beach house in Florida then of course they can read any of my books but some are very big so I can't lend them out. Neil Gaiman's been writing a new book there over the past year and he really enjoys the library because there are so many reference books. He worries about reading someone else's fiction, because you may unconsciously take from it and make your own interpretation.

"My books are all over the house, and our tree house also has bookshelves. They're in Florida because the house is big and open plan. I spend as much time as I can reading, and I take books with me wherever I travel if they're not too heavy. I've told my nephews if they get me a Kindle for Christmas they're out of the will. I like parchment!

"My daughter Tash, who is 12, is really getting interested in the tradition of collecting books too and she's building up a collection in England as there's no room in Florida! She has a section of Neil Gaiman books because he's her godfather and always sends her a copy of his latest one. She has a lot of books on the history of fashion, too, which is really exciting. If her collection gets too big, I don't know where she's going to put them all!"

Tori's latest album, Gold Dust, is out now

original article

[transcribed by Natasha Lee]

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