insolence in silence

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Michael Dirda displays some charming bibliophilia at WaPo:

In his affectionate introduction to Jacques Bonnet's reflections on reading and collecting, novelist James Salter points out that "a private library of good size is an insolent form of riches." Bonnet owns 40,000 books, which he reads, marks up and uses for his art-history and literary research -- his is a working collection, not a museum of precious rarities. In this case, what's really "insolent" is that Bonnet's books are all shelved, all organized, all findable.

Anyone with a serious personal library -- that means, in Bonnet's view, 20,000 or more volumes -- recognizes that it's easy to acquire books, but it's hard to find a place to put them.

"Serious collectors, in other words," writes Dirda, "focus their energies and cash, while manic readers tend to go wandering through a garden of constantly forking paths:"

Like many intellectuals, Bonnet scribbles in his books, "in pencil, but also with felt pens or ballpoints. In fact I find it impossible to read without something in my hand." There are consequences for this intensive engagement with texts. "The tens of thousands of books with their underlinings and marginalia, which have absorbed a large proportion of the money I have earned in my working life, are therefore now of no commercial value." Not that it matters, since Bonnet never sells any of them. "To lose one's books," he proclaims, "is to lose one's past."

In a similarly bookish vein, Laura Miller's piece in favor of shushing librarians comments that "I've long believed that one of the most precious resources libraries offer their patrons is simple quiet." In considering a study about "services that patrons regard as most essential in a library," she notes that "Quiet study spaces for adults and children" comes in fourth:

According the Pew study ["Library Services in the Digital Age" by Kathryn Zickuhr, Lee Rainie and Kristen Purcell at the Pew Internet & American Life project], quiet matters more to library patrons than special programs for kids or job-search resources or access to fancy databases or classes and events or spaces for public meetings. It matters more to them than the ability to check out e-books or engage in "more interactive learning experiences" -- areas that many library experts seem to regard as top priorities for the libraries of the future.

It's a wonderful thing to be able to enjoy one's insolence in silence.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on January 31, 2013 8:29 AM.

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