Monday, October 18, 1999, Wichita, Kansas -
Jim Erikson's world is our world - he has immersed himself so totally in media that he nearly doesn't have a world of his own. His life has been an experiment in borrowed psyche, having read so many books and watched so many movies that the number of hours spent in other people's worlds has nearly exceeded the time spent in his own.

Wade through his small, cluttered home on the north side of Wichita and you'll be up to your ears in video tapes of over 6,500 movies and television shows, and audio tapes of 2,000 hours of radio dramas. You'll swim past 10,000 books, 2,000 LPs, and at least 50 cinema posters. "Most of it is junk," he says with his dry, bearish countenance. Surely, there is a valuable gem or two amid the rubble, but his idea of value is different from that of most collectors.

Many people collect things as investments, and many buy and sell them, but Erikson collects books and movies so that he can read and view them. "I moved here in 1968," he says. "Since then, I have never sold anything." It looks like he has never thrown anything away, either. President of the local Friends of the Library, he works the book sale each week, from which he inevitably lugs home a few more gems for his collection - if his house were a boat, it would sink from the weight. At the moment, his house looks like a ship that was tossed around in high seas. Any square inch of floor space not claimed by bookcases, holds piles of books, magazines or tapes, and the shelving is of such scandalous design, that a misplaced Michener tome might just bring down a whole row of them.

Prone to disorganization, Erikson relented with an index card filing system for his videos, which is all that would spare the sanity of someone who, for example, wanted to watch Peter Sellers, in "Being There." He is fairly helpless with anything resembling engineering, instead relying on friends and contractors to build shelves for him. Shelves are everywhere, and his walls have disappeared like an audience during the credits. Like a parade of dominoes, video tapes cover one wall of the den, snake up around the ceiling, then into the bedroom and around that ceiling. They meander down a bedroom wall, cover a wall in the small library, wander back out into the hall for a while, then finish up in an exhaustive pile in the main library.

"I'll give you eight to five he'll be back in jail by Christmas."
The thirteen words of Jim Erikson's acting career - a bit part in the movie "Parade" that he says earned him only $450 (and $5,000 in residuals.)

n the 1950's, Erikson earned his doctorate at the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis, in 18th century English literature. He retired two years ago, after three decades teaching literature and film at Wichita State University. He is well known among Wichitans, for his interpretation of film. Beginning in the 1970's, when he hosted "Nightwatch" a late-night movie program on channel 10, to a stint on channel 8, hosting "Hollywood Classics" `he would bookend each movie with an introduction and a summary. Though he appeared as the host, he actually had little say in which movies were shown. "My taste does not agree with the public's taste," he says (even though he admits that his favorite Movie is "Citizen Kane.") He presently reviews movies for KMUW radio.

Erikson has no children - "I don't know the things they do," he says, "and I wouldn't know what to do if they do it." He was never married - "I lived with my parents throughout college," he says, "which was far too long - I know it affected me psychologically." During his college years, Erikson stopped smoking, drinking and dating, as he submerged himself into the worlds of literature and film. "I felt it was a psychological thing," he says. "It was an attempt to build a little world of my own."

The 67-year life of Jim Erikson seems to be one of acquiescence to his mortal abilities, rather than a struggle to achieve a lofty goal. The result is that he has settled down to achieve a modest, but satisfying life. "When I started college, I thought I might be a novelist or something, but now I have no illusions," he says. "I have nothing to say - I don't think I know a hell of a lot about the world, and I don't care to show my ignorance." So he has slowly become ensconced in his humble castle, crowded by the objects of his love, which are piled so high they tower over him, and cling to his life like children. He is so consumed with books, movies and record albums, that they are nearly a part of him - like the clothes on his back, they are something he intimately lives with.

rikson is not a tech-junkie. With all his ambitious collecting of videos and his earnest reviewing of cinema, he refuses to embrace gadgetry and technology. Plopped on the floor of his den are an old television and VCR, as his foremost derisive tribute to materialism. This entire house is a clamoring of statements to the effect that this man doesn't give a damn about the books, but cares only for the emotions peeled off the black ink on thin, white pages. He hardly knows which end of a TV or stereo to plug in the wall, but he lives for the cascade of magnetized images shot onto glass by cathode rays, and the moods brought on by the rattling of a stylus as it races through a groove of vinyl. His world is not about books and tapes, but the artwork found within them.

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