Yale £10.99 (383pp) (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop : 0870 079 8897
The Library at Night, By Alberto Manguel
Friday 12 June 2009
If many bibliophiles will share Alberto Manguel's assertion that the acquisition and ordering of his library has "kept me sane", they will also agree with his "fascinated horror" at how "night after night shelves... would fill up, apparently on their own". Manguel's testament to the library will be received with joy by any reader dismayed at the digitised domination of the world.
He defends print with a passion that has this reader cheering. The microfilm-obsessed librarian at Columbia University who said "The value, in intellectual terms, of the proximity of book to user has never been satisfactorily established" is described as "a dolt, someone utterly insensible... to the experience of reading."
Manguel also wishes he could condemn booksellers who attach unmovable price-stickers to "a special gummy hell". But there are far worse offenders against the book.
Manguel devotes a chapter to book burning and the destruction of libraries, though he fails to mention Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, which describes a world where books are banned so individuals memorise whole novels. Another curious omission occurs in his section on methods of book classification, which overlooks the tendency of the British Library and other huge hoards to file books by size (they can get more in).
But these are tiny lacunae in a stirring defence of literature on the page. Ranging from Lampedusa's The Leopard to Hersey's Hiroshima, his concluding list of favourite books is completely admirable
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Woman accidentally shoots herself in the head while posing for a selfie
- 2 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
- 3 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
- 4 Female Muay Thai champion hustles coaches to give them a beating
- 5 16-year-old girl beaten and burned alive by lynch mob in Rio Bravo, Guatemala
Eurovision 2015: Graham Norton returns with another cutting commentary - his best lines
Eurovision 2015: The best moments from Australia's random entry to Lithuania's gay kiss
Clarkson, Hammond and May Live: Top Gear trio returns with a blend of fireworks, AC/DC and 'automotive pornography'
Eurovision 2015 winner: Sweden beats Russia and Italy to take the title from Conchita Wurst
Eurovision 2015: Estonia seemingly enters Louis Tomlinson from One Direction
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland