While we may have just gotten started with recommending books, a pause to point to poet and critic Charles Simic’s essay in the newest New York Review of Books, titled A Country Without Libraries. It’s a beautifully written piece, and in it he, by way of personal narrative, makes the case for libraries in the ongoing budget crisis effecting public institutions. For Simic libraries are intrinsic to the “workings of democracy” because they are truly public institutions:
Empty or full, it pleased me just as much. A boy and a girl doing their homework and flirting; an old woman in obvious need of a pair of glasses squinting at a dog-eared issue of The New Yorker; a prematurely gray-haired man writing furiously on a yellow pad surrounded by pages of notes and several open books with some kind of graphs in them; and, the oddest among the lot, a balding elderly man in an elegant blue pinstripe suit with a carefully tied red bow tie, holding up and perusing a slim, antique-looking volume with black covers that could have been poetry, a religious tract, or something having to do with the occult. It’s the certainty that such mysteries lie in wait beyond its doors that still draws me to every library I come across.
The essay is also very much a defense of the print book, which, on Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish prompted some interesting rebuttals of Simic’s version of the role a library plays in people’s lives, (though rebuttals also argue the necessity of public libraries).
More recommended titles next week…