Thursday, 13 October 2011

A quote from Howard Jacobson

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Stuff and Nonsense by Amy Cockram is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

I've been listening to an audiobook of Howard Jacobson's collection of journalism, "Whatever It Is, I Don't Like It."  Except I like it very much.  So much so that I have also just bought the hardback today - as well as the new Terry Pratchett (I like variety in my reading) - and I was arrested by the following passage from Howard:

"How do you explain to somebody who doesn't understand that you don't build a library to read.  A library is a resource.  Something you go to, for reference, as and when.  But also something you simply look at, because it gives you succour, answers to some idea of who you are or, more to the point, who you would like to be, who you will be once you own every book you need to own."

I'm sorry, Howard - I hope you will forgive me first name terms, since I have sought out and read everything you have written - but I don't agree, or maybe I don't understand.  I do build a library to read.  I am an acquisitive reader - I like to own the new book by a writer I love, even if I know I won't be able to read it for a while - and my library does give give me succour.  But it also fills me with dread that I might already own more books than can be read in the limited lifetime of one human being.  Ultimately, it isn't about who I will be once I own every book I need to own: it is about who I would like to be, who I might be once I have read every book I own.

If a library is only something to look at, then I might as well have bought a bunch of flowers today, and not a new book.

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