Jim Holt

Jim Holt looks for Something to Read in New York

Walter Benjamin wrote somewhere that a true bibliophile has no desire actually to read his precious books . Well, I wouldn’t know about that, for I am by way of being a bibliophobe. I prefer reissues to first editions, paperbacks to hardcovers, and bound galleys to paperbacks- though I draw the line at unbound galleys. I find the books that I have accumulated an oppressive presence and a great retardant to any sort of sustained intellectual labour, and I rejoice at the opportunity of tossing them out (I dare not give them away because of the imbecile marginalia I have usually scribbled in them). Qua physical objects, books are the curse of the thinking classes – and having recently lugged several dozen boxes packed with ponderous old tomes up four steep flights of steps into a new apartment, I can say this with more feeling than most.

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