Friday, March 12, 2010

We Second That

At the London Review of Books, Black Sparrow author Aram Saroyan writes of the joys of the small, the crafted, the perfectly well-done little book: ‘A book should be good companionship,’ Jack Kerouac said in the middle of the last century. Perhaps today, when our laptops, Blackberries and tablets make all of knowledge their province, the book may be welcomed and enjoyed more frequently as a smaller pleasure field, a lucky talisman, if you will, to be carried around or laid down on a table to remind us of the fun of random contemplation, silent exchange, reverie. Then too, for anyone so disposed, turning out copies of such an item is now a virtual walk in the park.”

I myself love chapbooks, smallish editions, handbooks, field guides, and samplings. My daily commute requires an hour's worth of diversion daily. I have an early 20th Century edition of John Donne's poetry that has accompanied me on many a short subway ride to some social event — the perfect size to slip into a pocket once arrived. Godine's Essay on Typography, by Eric Gill, and On Being Blue, by William H. Gass, are two more examples of diminutive volumes worth well more than their apparent mass.

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