what is a library book

"tendentially, the book you want is never there, while another book is offered to you...the library is the space of substitutes for desire..." ~roland barthes

i was just thinking this the other day (though not in so many words, it was a thought that hovered over this idea but never landed into this articulate of a statement), walking home from the library with sophie. neither of the books we had gone looking for were there. at first, sophie wasn't interested in looking any further, but i coaxed her a little to just browse the shelves to see if she could find something interesting. some part of me has always been grateful not to find what i was looking for, for in this position i am most open to suggestion. what may start out as the substitute for something i wanted may become, mysteriously, the book i most needed to read. in it i might find the lost mate to a sock or the church key to a forgotten memory.

taking it from the shelf i see into it like a house lit up. i can peer through the living room window and glimpse the life that is lived there. i don't even have to knock to be allowed in. all of the possessions and combinations of objects come as pure surprise. the book is a place i may yearn to go to, yet i am its destination, according to barthes. without me its world stays folded and quiet. i have come across many of these books in the library which have not been opened in years. some not even once, the pages still uncut. desire to acquire a certain book is driven by the potential pleasure we sense that it will be capable of giving. it has promised something, some possible deep and intimate knowledge or else a validation of something you have long held dear. but without the possibility of having the object that holds so much promise, you find after all that you are here, in the veritable cathedral of promising objects, the library.

in my search i found a book i just had a sense that sophie would like. i noted its position and kept looking. when she joined me, i pointed it out to her. she read the jacket and decided to check it out. after we got home, while we were eating lunch, she said 'i really like stories that take place on ships.' she also likes vampires, had gone to the library in search of a vampire book they didn't have. later, after she's read some of the book, she said 'i love this book. and it takes place on a ship and it has vampires in it..'


brian said...

Liking what you don't find. The hardware checkout woman asked me, "Did you find everything you need?" I replied, "I hope that never happens."

Julie R said...

what a wonderful answer.