Monday, February 9, 2015

Minds on shelves

Today I want to share some of my favorite lines from The Secret of Lost Things, the novel by Sheridan Hay I reviewed last week.

(M)emory is a kind of obligation, perhaps the last duty owed anyone.

One of the worst things about the prospect of death is the thought of being forgotten, perhaps totally forgotten within a generation or two. That's why people want their names etched on granite tombstones or, if they can, bequeath large sums of money to universities, churches or whatever that will keep their memory alive for a long time. If we wish to be remembered, we also have an obligation to remember others. We owe nothing else to those who have died before us, but we do owe them that.

Books aren't lumps of paper, but minds on shelves.

I do like that image, that authors, whether of fiction or nonfiction, pour out their minds onto the pages of their books, allowing readers the opportunity to dip into their minds whenever they choose.

(T)he Arcade is itself a city; itself an island.

This idea follows the previous one. If books are minds on shelves, then wherever large quantities of books are gathered, whether it be a large bookstore like the fictional Arcade or a great library, becomes a city. It can also be viewed as an island, separate and isolated as it is from the rest of culture.

Remember, a book is always a gift.

This, too, seems to follow from the minds on shelves idea. Authors bestow their minds on the rest of us in the pages of their books. These are gifts, if we choose to accept them.

To a true collector, the acquisition of an old book is its rebirth.

When it comes to books, I am more an accumulator than a collector. Even so I think I understand what this character is getting at. It's a bit like those parables of Jesus. What was lost has been found. Some Christians call that being born again.

Books were the very source of desire.

I am not at all sure what this means, but I like it anyway. Perhaps it goes back to that first line quoted above, and the desire most found in books is that desire to be remembered, even if just as minds on shelves.

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