Friday, February 24, 2012

Another Apologia for the Personal Library

Leon Wieseltier, over at the The New Republic, contemplates his personal library as it is being moved. (Sound familiar?) He says: 
The library, like the book, is under assault by the new technologies, which propose to collect and to deliver texts differently, more efficiently, outside of space and in a rush of time.
But as he considers the crates piled high in the hall, he defends his volumes: 
My books are not dead weight, they are live weight—matter infused by spirit, every one of them, even the silliest. They do not block the horizon; they draw it. They free me from the prison of contemporaneity: one should not live only in one’s own time. A wall of books is a wall of windows. And a book is more than a text: even if every book in my library is on Google Books, my library is not on Google Books. A library has a personality, a temperament.
Much of this resonated with me, but then he quotes Borges—“I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library”—and concludes that, “if paradise lies in the future, it will certainly not be a library. A different arrangement awaits our minds.”

Perhaps the promise of the paradisiacal library is that it will manifest a different arrangement or pattern. Until then, our libraries “reveal and represent to us what was, what is, and what is to come” (that’s me, defending my library”).