Friday, May 23, 2008

To lend a book is an incitement to theft

Great article by Alberto Manguel.
Since my library, unlike a public one, requires no common codes that other readers must understand and share, I’ve organized it simply according to my own requirements and prejudices. A certain zany logic governs its geography. Its major divisions are determined by the language in which the books are written: without distinction of genre, all books written originally in Spanish or French, English or Arabic, come together on the same shelves. (I allow myself, however, many exceptions: Certain subjects — books on the history of the book, biblical studies, versions of the legend of Faust, Renaissance literature and philosophy, gay studies, medieval bestiaries — have separate sections.)

Certain authors are privileged: I have thousands of detective novels but few spy stories, more Plato than Aristotle, all Zola and hardly any Maupassant, almost all of John Hawkes and Cynthia Ozick. I have dozens of very bad books that I don’t throw away in case I ever need an example of a book I think is bad. The only book I ever banished from my library was Bret Easton Ellis’s “American Psycho,” which I felt infected the shelves with its prurient descriptions of deliberately inflicted pain. I put it in the garbage; I didn’t give it to anyone because I wouldn’t give away a book I wasn’t fond of. Nor do I lend books. If I want someone to read a book, I’ll buy a copy and offer it as a gift. I believe that to lend a book is an incitement to theft.
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