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New Left Review 107, September-October 2017

rebecca lossin


In 2004, I decided to become a librarian. I did so because I love reading and I needed to make a living in a fashion that would not, or so I hoped, leave me feeling alienated and depressed. In particular, I love reading books. Often long and dedicated to a single idea, argument or story, books are also incredibly durable. They can survive coffee spills, the interior of my over-stuffed handbag, and if my niece pulls them off the table, I am not faced with a small financial crisis. The best thing about a printed book, however, is what it does not do. I cannot use it to watch television or check my email. My mother will never call me on it. My boss will never use it to interrupt me. In an age of constant media distractions, having a single object dedicated to a single activity—reading—is increasingly important. If nothing else, books that cannot be searched by keyword remind us that good ideas are not always efficiently come by—that learning takes time.

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Rebecca Lossin, ‘Against the Universal Library’, NLR 107: £3

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