Library-at-NightAlberto Manguel’s The Library At Night examines books, reading and the library through a series of themes. It’s the sort of book where so much of it feels quotable that one is tempted to give up: the book resists being reduced, highlighted. Still, here’s some quotes I have pulled from it:

A library is an ever-growing entity; it multiplies seemingly unaided, it reproduces itself by purchase, theft, borrowings, gifts, by suggesting gaps through association, by demanding completion of sorts. (56)

During the day, I write, browse, rearrange books, put away my new acquisitions, reshuffle sections for the sake of space. Newcomers are made welcome after a period of inspection. If the book is second-hand, I leave all its markings intact, the spoor of previous readers, fellow-travellers who have recorded their passage by means of scribbled comments, a name on the fly-leaf, a bus ticket to mark a certain page. Old or new, the only sign I always try to rid my books of (usually with little success) is the price-sticker that malignant booksellers attach to the backs. These evil white scabs rip off with difficulty, leaving leprous wounds and traces of slime to which adhere the dust and fluff of ages, making me wish for a special gummy hell to which the inventor of these stickers would be condemned. (17)

And yet, however careful our reading, remembered texts often undergo curious changes; they fragment, shrivel up or grow unpredictably long. In my mental library, The Tempest is reduced to a few immortal lines, while a brief novel such as Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Paramo occupies my entire Mexican imaginary landscape. A couple of sentences by George Orwell in the essay “Shooting an Elephant” expand in my memory to several pages of description and reflection that I think I can actually see in my mind, printed on the page; of the lengthy medieval romance The Devoured Heart, all I can remember is the title. (197)