The Thinking 


November 7, 2017


Birdsong, Károly Ferenczy; 1893

ALAN writes:

One day years ago I was working in an antiquarian bookshop when a customer came to the desk with a book she had chosen to purchase.  She was in her twenties and very well-mannered.  During the brief transaction, she told me how gratified she was to have found a book of the kind for which she had been looking.  It was a book about birds.

Many customers purchased a handful of books or a box or boxes of books.  And that was fine.  Some were readers; others were collectors; some were other book dealers; others were book scouts.  There was room for all of them within the realm of an antiquarian bookshop that offered secondhand books and rare books in very-good-to-excellent condition.

But that young woman always remained in my memory.  She was not a regular customer.  But she was so gratified in having found one book.  We did not have a long conversation, but I was impressed by her manner and her sincerity.   I think she was very wise.  It is possible she understood what the Roman statesman Seneca advised two thousand years ago:  That it is the quality, not the quantity, that matters.

I quite agree with your remarks in “The Wardrobe of a Tree.”

In a nation oversaturated with books, non-books, fake books, designer books, and puff books, how could the best that books have to offer not be overshadowed, immersed in a sea of junk, undervalued, or not valued at all?  Have any people in history been more drunk on excess than Americans are today?

Anthony Daniels wrote:

          “A single flower is enough to transport me….  One can never come to the end of the interest of the world…”  [Salisbury Review, Autumn 2013, pp. 5-6.]

My sentiments exactly.  At various times over the span of seven decades, I too have been prompted to feel that sentiment and curiosity and fascination by the endless mystery of the night sky, or the intricacy of a gossamer web, or the colors of a landscape in autumn.

A single book was enough to transport that young woman into the world of bird-lore, a realm that I imagine could be endlessly fascinating.

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