Friday, June 22, 2012

The Library at Night - by Alberto Manguel

Using the term "library porn" might bring to mind an image of a young librarian with large glasses letting down her pinned up hair and tossing aside her 'specs as a more experienced lover teaches her a few moves between the stacks.

Here, I use the term "library porn" to describe a book that makes one desire to be in a library, not for the erotic opportunities (real or imagined that might be found there) but rather because the author has exalted the library to such a level as to experience it as a Siren's song - luring the user into it, to become seduced, lost,  never wanting to leave.

It is hard to know where to begin with writing about this book. Sometimes I count the number of times libraries are mentioned in a book, but that was not possible with this work. I marked so many passages as things to come back to that writing about each of them all in this would make this post so long that readers would lose interest. The first passage I marked was in the Foreword, in which Manguel tells of how, in his youth, he "dreamt of becoming a librarian", and while he did not professionally attain that goal, he lives among  "ever-increasing bookshelves." This is followed by dozens of other markings in which the author writes of the history of libraries, books, and reading, of battling censorship, of geography, language, and democracy.

Like an exceptional travelogue, this book leaves the reader with a yearning to go where the writer has been. It left me feeling especially fortunate that I work in a library, and can surround myself with great ideas whenever I want.

This  book is truly a love story for books and librarians.

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