Believe me, it shocks no one more than me, who traffics in sarcasm, that I’m sitting here (literally, under an unlikely canopy of Lydia Millet and Charlie Smith) extolling the virtues of a sentimental library. And as a person who renounces fads — no pastel pyramids for me, thank you — part of me still aspires to a more traditional approach. And it’s comforting to think that, like emotions themselves, books can be corralled by time and order.
Otherwise, it seems needlessly emasculating for the smaller editions.
Genre I can get behind, but with genre comes oversimplification.
Like it or not, I am in constant, real-time conversation with their contents.
The ledge above my desk is home to spirit animals (keeping in mind that selecting an arctic fox as one’s spirit animal does not make one an arctic fox).
The books above my sofa relax me on sight, or else they remind me of some pleasant time during which I acquired them.
Donna Tartt, John Cheever, Colum Mc Cann, Curtis Sittenfeld, Isaac Babel (listen, some people are relaxed by Isaac Babel).
There’s a look that passes over the faces of those who hear this confession: It’s a combination of shaming and hope, as if perhaps there’s video footage somewhere of me eating all my books because I lost a bet. A library that lords over me 24 hours a day in a single-file chain.
On the surface this makes me a Philistine, a traitor to my profession and sexually unviable according to John Waters, who has cautioned against going to bed with people who don’t own books. I own as many books as you’d expect a writer to own. They are decorative dust collectors, born to fall under a broker’s definition of “charm,” but I have inflicted utility upon them in the form of a library.
Susan Sontag, who arranged her books by literary tradition (e.g.
Russian literature) and then chronology, would scoff at my mushy method.