Anne 'with an e' Fadiman will be blissfully unaware of this but she and I are now kindred spirits.Her books are fast assuming biblical importance on that little shelf on my desk where I put "Tomes of Great Import".
The shelf is a tiny angled wooden one with curved ends picked up in a market by Bookhound probably. We have loads of these little free-standing shelves, they just can't be left behind.They come home with us, are cleaned and polished and then we negotiate possession, well I'll swap you those two for that one.
Some are flat but it's the angled ones I love, the way they offer the books up for my delectation.
Though my day to day reading may range far and wide these books tend to be permanent fixtures, touchstones only displaced when some Tome of Even Greater Import comes along.I pick them up and browse them frequently, they bear repeated reading, they are chock full of underlinings and marginalia and some tiny new seed of inspiration is sown with each delving.
Anne Fadiman's books are becoming faithful friends alongside At The Same Time, a collection of Susan Sontag's essays and speeches, Volumes I and II of The Paris Review Interviews, The Singer on the Shore a collection of essays by Gabriel Josipovici and The Emergence of Memory, Conversations with W.G.Sebald.
But I have a vacancy and a new kindred spirit to squeeze into their midst and it is Alberto Manguel. He is my new friend.
The Library at Night to be published by Yale University Press gives me the courage to call my 'book room' a library and be done with it. Somehow it seemed a bit presumptious in that who-do-you-think-you-are way of things, because after all it doesn't have a domed ceiling or pillars, but Bookhound designed it, drew the plans and then purpose-built it and I'm quite sure the planners in the Tamar Valley wouldn't have countenanced a dome, they have enough trouble agreeing to a shed.
Alberto Manguel has written an homage of sorts that will be cherished by all lovers of books and libraries, there is a reverence in these pages as he weaves a history of libraries from Alexandria to Google and threads in his own experience of establishing his collection of books in a converted barn in the Loire Valley. The book is structured around fifteen themes among them The Library as Myth, The Library as Order, Space, Power, Shadow et al and I am relating to every single theme. You can't help but feel warmly comfortable as you drink in this huge glass full of bookaholic's ambrosia and I'm rationing myself to a chapter a day.
Don't be put off, the purpose-built library is not essential in the scheme of things, consider the smallest shelf full of favourite books as equally important.
Alberto Manguel admits that his favourite time in his library is at night and I'd agree with that. One of my windows faces west and as the sun sets over Cornwall a new light and atmosphere descends on the room, and if there is a full moon shining in the windows facing east I bask as did Virgil,
'under the friendly silence of the soundless moon.'
There is plenty to share from this book and when I've turned the final page my sadness will only be assuaged by the fact I can return here and tell you more. Meanwhile, there's a gentle snoring noise coming from the footstool beneath my desk in my library as I sit here typing, and my feet are very warm, which can only mean one thing, today I have a Library Cat.