Wednesday, February 17, 2010

More Thoughts on Libraries

If you liked my last post on my personal library, you'll like this much better one by Ben Myers even more. (HT: Addenda & Errata, Evangelical Textual Criticism)

(Come to think of it, I suppose that if you hated my last post, you'd also like Myers's post more. So it's a sure bet.)

Myers gives twelve theses about libraries and librarians. Some of them are downright Chestertonian: drawing the poetry out of the most commonplace things, among other delightful inversions.

My favorite thesis is number 8, which contains a great quote from one Giorgio Agamben: “Like a true maze, the library [leads] the reader to his goal by leading him astray.”

One idle afternoon I was wandering the stacks at the University of Edinburgh's library when I found yards of books bearing the name G. K. Chesterton. I've heard of him, I thought. He's got something to do with C. S. Lewis, doesn't he? And I picked up All Is Grist.

There are echoes of Umberto among Myers's theses as well. The twelfth thesis reminds us that the librarian is a mistress of hidden knowledge. It plays on the fantasy that animates The Name of the Rose, The Thirteenth Tale, and countless other novels: finding the lost book. It may be forbidden or forgotten, rumored or restricted; what's actually in the book varies from novel to novel and is ultimately irrelevant. What matters is getting your hands on that book that no one else has held.

This story arc is the book lover's erogenous zone. Work it into your next novel, and librarians and book reviewers will melt into a puddle for you.

Other novels with a lost book theme include: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell; the Harry Potter series; others?

1 comment:

AbigailSchindler said...

I'm a total sucker for a book about books, but it doesn't necessarily have to be about a 'lost' book-- a book about a book lover will do just as well. I loved The Thirteenth Tale, Harry Potter, and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. I also loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Book Thief, and Peace Like a River. Make the main character a voracious reader, and I go weak in the knees.