The Corner

Libraries, Books

The best essay I ever read about culling a library was by the Anatole Broyard, who spoke of moving to Boston. Ernest van den Haag told me at the time he was moving to receive cancer treatments, and indeed he soon died. So this was truly death-bed reading. Fitzgerald: Loved him, but he’d done that. Parade’s End: A masterpiece, but wasn’t Tietjens just a little hard to take? I don’t remember what he kept.

A more poignant question is what to think, not of the books we give away, but of the books the world gives away. The books, that is, who die, being no longer read. Washington Irving wrote a wonderful short story, “On the Mutability of Literature,” in which he holds a dialogue with such a book. It manages to be delightful, tough and wise.

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