“needing the stupid things” Luc Sante on the book collection that devoured his life

Luc Sante is profiled in the Wall Street Journal talking about his book collection and its relationship to his space and his sanity. I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned this, but I have a whole house that just sort of holds on to my books. The real explanation of why me and my books don’t live together anymore is longer and more complicated but let me just say that I know exactly where Luc is coming from and this article delights me. Don’t miss the sidebar history of private libraries.

I would very much miss books as material objects were they to disappear. The tactility of books assists my memory, for one thing. I can’t remember the quote I’m searching for, or maybe even the title of the work that contains it, but I can remember that the book is green, that the margins are unusually wide, and that the quote lies two-thirds of the way down a right-hand page. If books all appear as nearly identical digital readouts, my memory will be impoverished. And packaging is of huge importance, too — the books I read because I liked their covers usually did not disappoint. In the world of books, all is contingency and serendipity. Books are much more than container vessels for ideas. They are very nearly living things, or at least are more than the sum of their parts.

4 comments for ““needing the stupid things” Luc Sante on the book collection that devoured his life

  1. 01Jun08 at 10:27

    i love this quote:

    “books function as a kind of external hard drive for my mind — my brain isn’t big enough to do all the things it wants or needs to do without help.”

    esp. the tactile and visual aspects of books not just their contents, and the spatial arrangement and selections of same.

  2. 02Jun08 at 6:21

    What a fun article.
    And yes, I kept glimpsing myself in it, from the duplicate books to the bookstore years, to the booklined basement home office.

  3. 02Jun08 at 10:58

    Thanks for that link. I love Luc Sante, and would hate to have missed that.

  4. 05Jun08 at 10:09


    i can always remember the page (right-facing or left-) and have yet to experience a similar recollection with the web. and the tactile part? don’t get me started.

    i’m going straight to the article now…

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