04 February 2013

Magpie Tales 154: We Are Made of Books

Central Library, Manchester, U.K., by Robin Gosnall via Magpie Tales

Cleverness fled, I think, when I saw the prompt image for the week. It is not fair for others to know of a weakness of mine. A weakness not only for books, but for the structures that house them. Buildings are what I mean. Edifices. Repositories built of wood, brick and stone, concrete and steel. Not the soulless silicon hearts of server banks and tablet computers. Such barbarities are convenient, even necessary, but they do not hold my imagination or reverence.

The first thought in my head was of the "Library of Babel", the interlocking, infinite hexagonal halls described by Jorge Luis Borges in his short story of the same name. His exploration of the idea of a Library I find by turns to be fascinating and disturbing. Fascinating and disturbing also being apt descriptors for the universe, which Borges aptly equates to the library in the opening sentence of the story. I do not recall ever having been so startled by the "shock of the familiar" upon reading such a statement. The universe as library, ah, how did he know?

The second thought was of the main library in the city where I grew up. The library was downtown, a short drive for us and one we visited often until a branch opened up much closer to our house. I spent many a sojourn there as a lad, in tow to my mother, happy to browse amongst the books that fired my imagination and captivated me. Little did I know then that it was the universe itself writ small, and somewhat like that described by Senor Borges.

I drove past that old building multiple times on a recent visit to my hometown. It has been decades since I last was in it, and I am not sure that it is still a library. I think the institution moved elsewhere.The memories, however, are still there. I felt them stir in my mind and heart. I longed to go back there to sit on the floor and pull slices of the universe off the shelves, losing my self in the infinite. I know this is not possible, exactly. But like the narrator of the story, I feel I will forever wander those halls while searching for that single volume of infinite pages...which is really, quite possibly, my heart.

23 comments:

  1. This was oh, so lovely. Just the scent of old books makes me pause...I find them irresistable.

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  2. It's the smell. LOVE the smell of books in a library. Great post brother.

    Jason
    The Cheeky Daddy

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    Replies
    1. That aroma is a huge part of the experience. I dig that smell, always have, always will :)

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  3. I'm reminded of the libraries, cathedrals, castles around the world I've been privileged to visit ... magic. Universe as library, yes.

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  4. A weakness of mine, as well...excellent tribute, Irish...

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  5. Oh, wow, that was really great!

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    Replies
    1. Why, thank you, very glad you liked it.

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  6. Nothing in all the world as wonderful as a library...

    Great post, Irish.

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    1. Sometimes I wish I could live in a library :)

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  7. Oh you have absolutely written straight from my own heart and thoughts! Echo....echo... bravo!

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  8. Great writing, Irish. Our library had a whole floor for children, with cushions on the floor and little stools and chairs so they could look through their choice of books in comfort.

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    1. Thank you, kind sir. I think I should like a room like that in my house.

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  9. The heart as a book of infinite pages. Terrific.

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    1. Pages, pages, in the flow of blood through our veins :)

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  10. It saddens me to think of just how books have been destroyed down the centuries on account of fearing what they conveyed.

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  11. Yes, the holder of books.....so much life and wisdom and everything else.....held within those walls.....libraries are a fascination to so many....love this! :-)

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  12. "I longed to go back there to sit on the floor and pull slices of the universe off the shelves, losing my self in the infinite." My God, what a beautiful line ... it is just what sitting in the stacks with a hand poised before the shelf feels like ... beautiful write, my dear.

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"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."


-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...