Location: Israel

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

My library

Some books should never be parted with. I don't mean they should be shoveled in from the graveside as fill; but they should be bequeathed or, if one's livingspace is severely limited, if one is suddenly exiled, or if some cataclysmic event - an earthquake or a divorce - occurs the books should be left with cherished friends or family. Such books should never be sold (and should be pawned only if, by doing so, a life or a home or a government can be saved). I am still undecided as to whether or not they should be donated to charitable institutions. Under no circumstances should these essential volumes be sold at tag sales or to book dealers.
Of course my own library consists largely of books I purchased at tag sales or secondhand book stores, so you can understand that, according to my criteria, my own collection contains few if any of the essential, great books.
There isn't time, I'm too old to begin listing which books to possess - there are so many; and I am too young to have read enough books to compile a worthwhile list. Even so, I am convinced that some books, certain books should be in every home.
I am not so foolish as to specify which books should be in your library, but as far as possible my library will always contain a copy of Ruth Ainsworth's Listen with Mother Tales. It was given to me by my parents for my fifth birthday. It is the personal possession I have owned the longest and, in contrast to a portrait of Dorian Gray, for instance, its physical condition resembles (but does not parallel) my own physical decline. It has no spine, for a start. Its covers are lumpy and wrinkled. As a result of a leak in my waterbed in the 1980s, the book's pages are partially corrugated and are liberally patched with black mold. More important, the fountain pen ink from my mother's inscription was washed away, so I have only my own memory of the blue-black ink. I do not remember the precise wording, but I know it mentioned both Mummy and Daddy. Someone else's child crayoned inside the back cover. Anyway. It belongs in my library.


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