|Greg Gatenby in his office. Photo: Michelle Siu for National Post|
"Some years ago, Greg Gatenby found himself in a dusty old record store in Stockholm, Sweden. The shelves were piled high with old 33s and 45s, but Gatenby wasn’t interested in music. He approached the clerk behind the counter and asked: “Do you have any records by authors?”
Gatenby, sitting in his Toronto office on Tuesday morning, mimics the clerk’s puzzled expression; head tilted to the side, eyes narrowed, lips pursed.
Eventually, the clerk spoke: “Do you mean novelists and poets?”
“Yes,” replied Gatenby.
“On vinyl? Do you care what format?”
“I’ve been waiting for you for 28 years,” the clerk said.
“I don’t understand,” said Gatenby.
“Oh, you will.”
The clerk rose from his seat and walked to a far corner of the store, where he placed a ladder against the packed shelves and climbed high off the ground. He proceeded to take down several heavy boxes full of nothing but spoken word LPs from around the world.
“He said I was the first person in 28 years to ever ask for authors on vinyl,” recalls Gatenby.
It was the pinnacle of Gatenby’s record-collecting career, but the number he discovered in that Stockholm store — 70 or 80 in all — is dwarfed by the collection he has amassed since then. A man best-known for his commitment to live readings —he is the founding artistic director of Toronto’sInternational Festival of Authors — Gatenby has accumulated what he calls the world’s largest collection of authors on wax. And all 1719 pieces of vinyl are currently for sale.
“There’s no categorical way of knowing, except that for 35 years I’ve been talking to record dealers who are amazed,” he says.
“When I tell them I have 1700-plus their jaws drop, because they just don’t know anyone who’s that crazy.”