Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Monday, December 22, 2008

empty books

Sam Kean on a visit to a shop in Venice:

I approached the owner and asked about the shelves of leather-bound books. Though all of them (the books) were blank, they looked like the sort of gilt-edged, feathery-papered volumes that populate the wet dreams of every bibliophile. “Do you make all these yourself?” I asked.

He answered that yes, yes, he did, of course. Over his glasses, his eyes scanned around at the volumes. Impulsively, I asked him if he also made chapbooks for people, actually set type and printed books. He said he never does that, he doesn’t have time. “I like to sleep at night,” he explained in mock seriousness.

But my question betrayed something, and he moved on to other customers. Looking back, I should have felt like a boob. Here I was in a stationery story, and I’d asked about words, potential stories. I’d been intoxicated at the hundreds of gorgeous volumes on the shelves and wanted to fill the unfulfilled books, but there wasn’t a single letter in any of them: A very lonely library. What to me seemed just prep work, the sewing and binding, was for La Carta the end.