Saturday, September 06, 2008

Philip Pullman on the Library

I finally have some time to catch up on my blog reading, as well keep up with the book-related news. Here's an old article from Philip Pullman, on loving the library. [full article here]

Thirdly, there’s the infinite value of browsing. You simply don’t know what you’ll find till you’re in front of a range of shelves full of books. Of course they say you can browse on the internet, but it isn’t really browsing; some system or algorithm has done the selecting for you. Much, much better to stand in front of a shelf of books and simply pick them up and look for yourself. You never know what you’ll find — and that’s exactly the point.

When I was packing all my books recently, I grumbled that I am now beginning to appreciate the weightlessness of digital books. And as I was packing my books into my luggage for Dubai, I considered the compact beauty of a kindle - but only for a minute. Deep down inside, I still prefer the physicality of a book. That's why I love libraries, and why I prefer browsing in a physical bookstore rather than buying online.

I agree with Philip Pullman that the physical act of browsing is an important part of the book experience. All these choices, all these possiblities - all just sitting on the shelves waiting for you. You never know what you will come home with, you never know what may leap at you from the bookshelves.

One of the greatest gift we can offer anyone is access to a good library. I am grateful to my parents for making those weekly Saturday trips to the library when I can growing up. I learned from young that joy of running my fingers down the rows of books, of looking, diving in and exploring, discovering for myself as I open strange books with curious titles.

I take great joy in that freedom of browsing, and choosing for myself, what to read. That liberty is something I have come to take for granted. It upsets me when I hear about how people believe they can and should ban books from libraries. (I just read about how Sarah Palin wanted to ban books from the library when she was mayor in Alaska. The idea that a woman like this might become Vice-President of the United States - it freezes my blood.) It reminds me that freedom to read what you want is a priviledge that can be taken away.

And sometimes, you may have to go to a country where you may not have access to a good English-language library (ie. Dubai). That is when you really start to appreciate the library you have back home, in spite of all its flaws.

8 comments:

Doc Martian said...

i wouldn't take everything in the book banning kerfuffle at face value. i've been dicked around by the dnc myself... stuff where i found myself ostracized at a college by a teacher for my political beliefs while she sucked about 20 minutes of classtime a day with diatribes about the bush administration. the 'book-banning' has the earmarks of democrat hijinks. you're mayor of a small town... and its mentioned to you that a book with a lot of mapplethorpe's works has been found shelved in the children's section (being 'mistaken' as a picture book), so you speak to the librarian about removing some books from the 'general' collection... then the dem-appointed librarian starts hollering that you want to BAN BOOKS and falls upon her ties in the community. shit like that happens all the time in politics. make a big to-do about something that most people would agree with if the facts were out in the open... but they won't be brought out in the open because the other hockey mom asked for confidentiality about her 8 year old boy bringing home a book of mapplethorpe. i'm sure you understand... stuff like this is high school level drama... to be taken with a grain of salt at bare MINIMUM.

them's my thoughts... I'm voting for McCain/Palin because I don't want to see a catspaw of Howard 'I'm the president for guys with confederate flags in their pickups' Dean (the DNC chairman who pulled a LOT of strings do to conflicts with hillary) elected president. I mean look at it this way... you've got a choice between a vice-president who was involved in some predictable kerfuffle... or a president who is the Major Domo of a guy who waves the Nazi flag (or at least the u.s. equivalent thereof). Who would YOU vote for?

Doc Martian said...

p.s. more on the chairman of the 'change' party.

"In his new book, 'Winning Back America,' Dean talks about his wealthy prep school and how he used to get drunk. Let me get this straight — he had rich parents, drank a lot, went to prep school and avoided Vietnam. He's the alternative to George Bush? I think he is George Bush." —Jay Leno

Nymeth said...

I agree with Pullman too - and with you.

Dark Orpheus said...

Nymeth - I was reading his picks of 40 books at Waterstones recently, and I like his choices too.

Dorothy W. said...

I loved Pullman's list of 40 books too. What a great writer!

Dark Orpheus said...

Dorothy - He is living proof that a good writer must first be a good reader.

I heart Philip Pullman.

stefanie said...

I love libraries too. No surprise there! Palin is scary but I also take comfort in knowing that for every person like her there is a librarian fighting censorship.

Dark Orpheus said...

Stefanie - But maybe it's not enough - or maybe I just don't see enough people who stand up to people like Palin. Eight years of Bush says there isn't enough.

Isn't it how it goes: "The best lacks all conviction, and the worst are full of passionate intensity" I'm probably quoting it wrongly.