Saturday, October 11, 2008

Hot Hot Man 2 Library Action

Nicola Griffith has a good post about Library Porn, drawing mainly on an article from Wired about some Internet mogul's private library. (Not quite the same as librarian porn. [And don't worry, those links are probably work-safe.]) It's true, Jay Walker's library is to die for, but I noticed immediately that it seems inhuman -- it's a private library (meaning, owned by an individual rather than by a community), not a personal one. It's meant to be seen, not inhabited or used. Writer Steven Levy informs us that "Walker frequently meets with the Walker Digital brain trust in the seating area of the library, hoping to draw inspiration from the surroundings." Just from the surroundings.

And the books themselves? "Walker shuns the sort of bibliomania that covets first editions for their own sake—many of the volumes that decorate the library's walls are leather-bound Franklin Press reprints." A lot of bibliophiles look down their noses at Franklin Press, but my problem here is that it sounds as if those "leather-bound" volumes were bought to look classy on the shelves, not for their contents. I wonder how many of the books in this library were bought by Walker himself? It's a safe bet that such a busy man has staff to dust the shiny toys, and I'll bet there are no stacks of books on the floor that he hasn't yet got the shelf space for.

The human equivalent of this library porn would be a sculpted, toned mannequin with minutely coiffed hair and (for those so inclined) expertly applied makeup -- the kind of person you couldn't touch because it would muss their hair or smear their lipstick. Not very sexy to my mind, but to each his or her own.

Nicola is a book person, unlike (it seems) Jay Walker; I think that like me, she'd prefer something like the library of the writer Alberto Manguel, who has 30,000 volumes in an old French presbytery in the Loire Valley. It's not just his library, it's his workplace, and he sits in it at night, reading. "But I have neither the funds nor the knowledge to become a professional collector," he wrote in the New York Times, "and in my library, shiny young Penguins sit happily alongside severe-looking leather-bound patriarchs."

My ideal library would be in a city, I think. A few years ago I stayed with some friends in Seoul who had just moved into a six-room apartment overlooking the Han River. They were just about a block from the subway station. I think my books could just about fit into a space like that, and the location is ideal. Now all I need is to win the lottery or the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes, and I'll be off. Unlike Nicola, I wouldn't install an espresso machine or "perhaps a little fridge for the caviar..." Let's see, though, what would I need in the way of equipment? Maybe a theater-style popcorn popper and a dispenser for lime-flavored Diet Coke.

Meanwhile, about a third (or a half?) of my roughly 7,000 books are in storage, and the rest are bursting the limits of my two-room apartment. But as someone once wrote, a person only needs a few thousand books on the walls of the room to know that there is one place in the world where he or she can be happy.