Luc Sante is profiled in the Wall Street Journal talking about his book collection and its relationship to his space and his sanity. I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned this, but I have a whole house that just sort of holds on to my books. The real explanation of why me and my books don’t live together anymore is longer and more complicated but let me just say that I know exactly where Luc is coming from and this article delights me. Don’t miss the sidebar history of private libraries.
I would very much miss books as material objects were they to disappear. The tactility of books assists my memory, for one thing. I can’t remember the quote I’m searching for, or maybe even the title of the work that contains it, but I can remember that the book is green, that the margins are unusually wide, and that the quote lies two-thirds of the way down a right-hand page. If books all appear as nearly identical digital readouts, my memory will be impoverished. And packaging is of huge importance, too — the books I read because I liked their covers usually did not disappoint. In the world of books, all is contingency and serendipity. Books are much more than container vessels for ideas. They are very nearly living things, or at least are more than the sum of their parts.