May 12, 2008

by a bibliophile, for bibliophiles

My deep and abiding love for books extends to those who nurture them. I harbor profound reverence for librarians, glowing appreciation for authors, and even begrudging respect for publishers. After reading Ben Carlson's review of Alberto Manguel's The Library at Night, I just might have a reason to shed the rest of my Barnes and Noble gift card.
The Library at Night is a reminder of all the things that books -- real, physical, hefted books -- have represented. They are friends, memories, consolations, and gateways to thought. As objects, they carry history, and their decay is itself a lesson in mortality. We mourn with Manguel the destruction of Aztec civilization during the great book-burnings of Juan de Zumarraga's Mexican Inquisition, and we celebrate the survival of a Jewish prayer book he discovered in a Berlin market: "From fire, water, the passage of time, neglectful readers and the hand of the censor, each of my books has escaped to tell me its story." Their impermanence instructs us in the need to remember.
Amen to that.

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