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Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Well-Tended Bookshelf

In order to have the walls of my diminutive apartment scraped and repainted, I recently had to heap all of my possessions in the center of the room. The biggest obstacle was my library. Despite what I like to think of as a rigorous “one book in, one book out” policy, it had begun to metastasize quietly in corners, with volumes squeezed on top of the taller cabinets and in the horizontal crannies left above the spines of books that had been properly shelved. It was time to cull.
I am not a collector or a pack rat, unlike a colleague of mine who once expressed the fear that he might perish someday under a toppled pile of books and papers, like a woman whose obituary he once read. I was baffled the first time a friend explained to me that the book in my hand was his “reading copy,” while the “collection copy” resided upstairs, in some impenetrable sanctum. Having reviewed hundreds of books over the past 20-some years, I no longer subscribe to the notion that I have a vague journalistic responsibility to keep a copy of every title I have ever written about. I am not sentimental.


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