As I think I've said before somewhere on this blog (probably many times), I'm always doing catch-up reading. For some reason, I can't seem to keep up on anything like a timely basis with all the newspapers and magazines that come through here. So at least one day a week – frequently on Monday – I try to sit down and leaf through the back-up.
And this morning one article from last Thursday's (May 15) New York Times jumped out at me right away. In "A 30,000-Volume Window on the World," Alberto Manguel writes about his love of books and about the library he's spent his life accumulating. The collection now lives in a converted barn on his property in France – "an old stone presbytery" – which he chose primarily because it would be the perfect place for his books ("I knew that once the books found their place, I would find mine").
Manguel has written at length about libraries (his own included) in his recent book, The Library at Night, published last month by Yale University Press – a book I'm certain to read as soon as I can get my hands on a copy. As a book addict, I know Manguel is a kindred spirit. How could I not love a guy who buys a house with a barn big enough to accommodate his 30,000 books (that's thirty thousand books), and then admits even that's not enough space: "Barely seven years after setting it up, it has already spread into the main body of the house, which I had hoped to keep free of bookshelves."
Like Manguel, I really can't remember a time when I didn't have a library of my own – from that very first collection of board books and Little Goldens, I've always had a book collection. And, as he says, "In every place I settled, a library began to grow almost on its own." Years ago, my husband and I used to enjoy the wonderful privilege of spending the summers in England; and every year, by summer's finish, we'd end up with stacks of books decorating every surface in our room in the B&B, and taking up precious space in our suitcases on the journey home.
One thing in the article I can't really identify with, however. Manguel writes:
"These days, after my 60th birthday, I tend to seek the comfort of the books I’ve already read rather than set out to discover new ones. In my library, I revisit old acquaintances who will not distract me with superficial surprises."
I find that, for myself, just the opposite is true. The older I get, the more eager I am to sample new books and authors that I've never read before. I'm encouraged that at my advanced age, I seem to be ready for new discoveries and experiences, and new surprises. Well, the literary kind, anyway.