Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if I had access to only a very few books and they weren't necessarily books of my choice. Sort of like a desert island scenario where I washed ashore with some random shipboard collection like the dime rack at my library.
Something like this happened to Christendom after the fall of the Roman empire, of course, only the heritage they ended up with was not the latest Tom Clancy, Danielle Steele, Dr Brazelton and Oprah Book Club selection of the month, but the Scriptures, some early Church writings, and some significant but incomplete remnants of various Greek and Roman works. And that would make a difference.
Still, I wonder if you couldn't get some sort of literary tradition started even with imperfect, relatively superficial books ... almost any book that isn't completely contemptible has gleams of a tradition, of a philosophical and literary capital that may not be developed within the book, but is used or referred to or dependent upon. Somewhat as Socrates basically sketched out the blueprint of Western philosophy from the often murky, inchoate or misleading bits and pieces of the earlier philosophers, perhaps a cultural Robinson Crusoe could cobble together bits and pieces of a heritage from certain assumptions and echoes and hints even from the typical New Books shelf at the library.
What made me think of this was the fact that the next few books I am taking notes on are books that I never finished reading and probably realistically won't finish reading, because there are so many books out there that I think I could get more out of. There is nothing really wrong with any of these books (that I've found, at least) but for some reason I can't get into them properly.
If they were the only books in the world I would probably read them, but they aren't. And this is important, because it brings me to the heart of why I'm trying to thin my bookshelves -- ME! a bibliophile from a line of bibliophiles! I'm at least halfway through my life and feeling the lack of time and that sort of broad-ranging curiosity that belongs to young people. I would rather have a dozen (OK, maybe a couple hundred!) books that I really really loved than a thousand that I sort of like having around but honestly will probably never really immerse myself in.
|random photo Liam took of me reading while making dinner -- he seemed to think this was amusing|
But I do think enough of them to do an inspectional reading of them and blog it before I give them away.