Friday, September 10, 2010

Would it be bad to be marooned on a desert island if you had all your books?

Living in Tahiti in a house filled with books. That must be what Heaven is like.

William Zinsser, at the American Scholar, writes about having visited James Norman Hall's widow in Tahiti. Hall and Charles Nordhoff had written numerous books of adventure in the South Seas, most notably Mutiny on the Bounty. Zinsser describes Hall's library, which Sarah, his widow, kept after his death, and wonders what will be the consequence for such things in the digital age:

Today I sometimes think of that library, assembled on a faraway speck of land by an American boy from Colfax, Iowa (population 1,749), because no such library will ever be assembled again. The world’s knowledge has been digitized, its literature is fast being Kindled. Does any architect still design a house with a “library”? Does any interior decorator advise a client to decorate a wall with bookshelves? Does any carpenter remember how to build a bookcase?

Book-lined rooms were part of our shared domestic landscape. To walk into a house with books was an unspoken promise of conversation that would jump beyond the events of the day. Brightly colored book jackets, waving for attention, were also good companions, a linear museum of handsome typography and graphic design through the decades.

Read the rest here.

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