Auntie M is in the process of waiting for the bound proof of her novel to be delivered, almost shivering in anticipation the way my dog does when he sees a juicy bit of meat on its way to his mouth.

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I’ve always been in love with my books. My library shelves were so filled to overflowing that I had a mega-clean-out a few months ago, and it literally took me days to decide which beauties I could bear to part with the for library in town or the prison library in our county, where my donations end up.

Now the Oxford University Press has published a two-volume compendium that will definitely be on my Christmas/Birthday list this year. Yes, it’s pricey at $ 275, but it’s one of those items I’d happily take for all of my gifts for both those occasions without batting an eye.

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The Oxford Companion to the Book promises to be the anything and everything you could want to know about books, from antiquity to the age of Kindle and Nook.  Since the earliest books were treated as sacred texts, reader and those who were read to treated books as a source of divine revelation.  The books were often kissed before and after use.

Now I’m not in favor of bringing back that tradition, but I do get a wonderful feel of satisfaction after finishing a wonderfully told story, written in clear prose with bright imagery. Although threatened recently with extinction by these new electronic devices, I believe nothing will change the heady anticipation of opening the pages of a new book. And as a writer, nothing will ever replace that feel of the blank page that becomes filled with words I’ve chosen.

A review in the Wall Street Journal by author Norman Lebrecht (The Life and Death of Classical Music), describes the enormity of this FIFTEEN-year project, written by 398 scholars from 27 countries and the results of its editors:

Unusually in an academic compendium, Father {Michael} Suarez, director of the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia, and Mr. {HR} Woudhuysen, professor of English at University College, London, set out to give as much pleasure as knowledge and to have some fun along the way. . .it is completely unnecessary but humanly warmaing to find out that “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” was originally titled “Tenderness.”

Lebrecht goes on to warm my heart even further as he discusses this set of books as being about the book as object:

It is a fount of knowledge where the Internet is but a slot machine. It refreshes where Google merely sates. We will always need books for the depth of memory, the free association of random thought. This dangerous two-tome sits on my living room shelf, an irresistible distraction.

Auntie M agrees; what say you, dear reader?


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