“Human beings can lose their lives in libraries. They ought to be warned.”
- Saul Bellow, in “Him with His Foot in His Mouth”, from Him with His Foot in His Mouth and Other Stories (1984)
I once made an acquaintance with a man who had the most amazing library. It wasn’t the biggest library I had even seen – just several shelves lined up side-by-side, in fact – but it had every book I wanted to read or thought I should read someday. Every classic that ought to be in one’s library was there. It was as well-selected and tasteful as I dream my library should be, but isn’t (yet).
But time, unfortunately, was short. I found myself jumping from classic novel to classic novel, reading the first chapter of each before going on to the next. If I had had the time, I certainly could’ve lost my life in those shelves. Instead, I ended up cramming as many snatches of ‘great literature’ from as many different authors as possible. The first chapter of A Brave New World, of Atlas Shrugged, of The Great Divorce, and on and on… I may never finish pick up any of these books again, and certainly have not read enough of them to decide if they should be counted as ‘great literature’ or not. But I discovered the thrill a great library can give you.
What about you – what is the most amazing library you have set foot in?