Buoy the population of the soul
Toward their destination before they drown
~ Robert Pinsky
March 2024
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Against "Library 2.0"

"I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library", wrote Borges, expressing what is a literal truth for those of us who grew up with minimal access to libraries. During the school years, one of the most awaited period of time for me was the so called "library period" - a forty five to fifty minute gap in reality, where any kind of escape (I usually preferred histories and historical characters) was possible, and available between the covers of a book. And now years later, living in a different country, the first thing I do when visiting new cities is pay a visit to their public libraries - walking the fiction and poetry racks in a sufficient litmus test of whether a city and me will find each other agreeable.

But now we have Cassandra aka CNN singing praises of "Library 2.0", which from my understanding of it not a library at all. Instead it is a "digital learning center", a "community gathering center", a place with "conversational loops" (powered by Twitter and Facebook apparently - are great conversations haikus?), with all this goodness helmed by with-it "information specialists" (who apparently "wear tattoos, piercings and dress like they belong on the streets of Brooklyn instead of behind bookshelves" - oye CNN, why no skinny jeans? why no Converse shoes?)...

All of which just made me puke - so excuse me while I clean the mess.

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A Liminal Novelist

Some brilliant correspondence between two writers published in the American Scholar pointed me to the work of Jame Salter. And this resulted in me slowly reading (because Salter's work can't be absolutely speed read) his novel on a marriage (and food, and cities, and the sea, and trees,...etc etc) "Light Years" over the past two weeks.

I loved it so much that I went out and bought Salter's more famous novel "A Sport & A Pastime", which is providing it's own delights. What one revels most in Salter's novels, is the density of descriptions of the surfaces, and how suddenly one is taken down below this river to a dark vein of truth.

Few underlined sentence from "Light Years":

"It took a long time, it took forever; days and nights, the smell of antiseptic, the hush of rubber wheels. This frail engine, we think, and yet what murder is needed to take it down. The heart is in darkness, unknowing, like those animals in mines that have never seen the day. It has no loyalties, no hopes; it has its task."

"-any two people when they separate, it’s like splitting a log. The pieces aren’t even. One of them contains the core."

Here is an old NYT essay Salter wrote on writing...read, and then go seek Salter's novels out (E, you in particular should carry Salter to Turkey)

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Lunchtime Deliciousness

A book review of what appears to be an interesting novel in its own right, leads to an older novel by the same author (with thirty or so preview pages), which is so dense with ideas, and above all, beautiful writing, that he will be trekking to the bookstore after work this evening to purchase, and consume, later in the wee hours of the night.

In passing, mentions of other recent books that managed to put a dent in his head: Orhan Pamuk's "Istanbul" (a Seabald-ian book with its pitch perfect black and white photographs), Philip Gourevitch's fierce "We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda" (on reading some accounts of doctors and priests turned genocidaires, a line from Milosz came back to him, "that good spirits, not evil ones, choose us for their instrument"), and W.B. Keckler's enigmatic book of poems "Sanskrit of the Body" (a book which he resisted even flipping through in a bookstore a while ago, given the near-cliché implied by its title).

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