Thursday, June 5, 2008

WSJ: "The Book Collection That Devoured My Life"

Bard College’s Luc Sante inadvertently made an argument for The Middle Shelf in the May 31, 2008 edition of The Wall Street Journal. Excerpts:

After living in smallish apartments for decades I just spent seven years in a house with a full-size attic, and everything went to hell. Books entered my house under cover of night, from the four winds, smuggled in by woodland creatures, and then they never left. Books collected on every surface; I believe that somehow they managed to breed. …

I discovered that I owned no fewer than five copies of André Breton's "Nadja," not even all in different editions. I owned two copies of St. Clair McKelway's "True Tales from the Annals of Crime & Rascality," identical down to the mylar around the dust jacket. I had books in three languages I don't actually read. …

Over the years I've gotten used to the inevitable questions about my accumulation of books. No, I haven't read all of them, nor do I intend to -- in some cases that's not the point.
So what is the point? Sante says, “Books function as a kind of external hard drive for my mind. … Optically scanning the shelves wakes up dormant nodes in my memory.”

Okay, I understand. But let’s face it -- authors want to be read. It’s part of the unstated contract formed when pen meets paper. Looking for an external reference for your thoughts? Pick up a journal. As for me, I’m only getting books I’ll open more than once.

Read the whole article

(Picture: CC 2007 by

No comments: