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November 20, 2011

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I suppose I am the garbage collector in this tale. My mother, who will not be with us much longer I think, has been trying very hard to get rid of books. Everyone else has shown no interest. I have now a complete Shakespeare collection from the 1700s, a signed Faulkner, and a lot of very peculiar mouldering volumes. Last time we were all gathered, and my mother once again begged everyone to search the books, I made my pile, and suddenly everyone suddenly became jealous. Some of these old books are so strange, it is hard to explain their value. Language is used so differently from one century to the next, and history, too, changes--the same events told in 1900, for example, are not at all the same at all. But I do pity whoever comes after me.

Dear D: That piece seemed almost more like an elaborate complaint about his father-in-law, which I thought was kind of funny, though I'm not sure he meant it that way. But what to do about all the books: that is something of a problem, don't you think? The second-hand shops down here (DC area) seemed to have all stopped buying used books. T.

Thank you for the comments. I think books are holy, or seem so, and so people react to them in exaggerated ways. Imagine the glee of the youthful Nazis in brownshirts burning books in bonfires!Well, Wordsworth agrees that a single "vernal impulse" from a forest can teach you more than any books can. But I like to think of "1984" and how reading a book, bought at a bookstore, is the most subversive thing you can do. The New Yorker piece was, you're right Terry, aimed with ire at the author's late father-in-law, the sad sack who did not read the books but "possessed" them. But the problem remains. The "youth in Asia" leave the problem of old age unsolved. -- DL

T: I used to regularly take books to The Strand, where they buy them to sell them. The still do this but they've lowered what they'll pay which suggests that they can't charge as much as they used to b/c of decreased demand.

As Terry says, the piece was full of bile directed at the author's late father-in-flaw. Wonder what author's wife said when piece appeared.

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