To discuss his personal history and affiliation with book collections, books inherited, books in storage, libraries of the tiny Nutshell variety (per Maurice Sendak) or in hefty reference volumes on Subject Headings (per the Library of Congress), Professor Daniel Rosenberg writes about the library as archived pleasure for Cabinet magazine's Issue #60: Containers.
Mystical for their ability to provoke meaning in a codex, a book that one can pick up and carry, open and display, or simply hold in both hands - a tangible memento of what is intangibly dead: research, words, the origin thought gone with the first draft, wiped out by the time it goes to press (to say nothing of reprints). A book renews itself with every first reading, so then why do we hold onto these blocks of space when we do not reread them all if we are even so lucky as to read the ones we have to begin with?
Rosenberg, whose "current research concerns the history of data," quotes a 2011 public radio interview with Maurice Sendak. The children's author and illustrator, whose original cloth-bound, under-nine-ounces Nutshell Library remains a priceless memento of childhood camping trips and joyful young readership for Rosenberg, answers an interview question about memorable responses from fans.
A little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing. I loved it.
I answer all my children's letters - sometimes very hastily - but this one I lingered over.
I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it.
I wrote, "Dear Jim: I loved your card."
Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said,
"Jim loved your card so much he ate it."
That to me was one of the highest compliments I've ever received.
He didn't care that it was an original drawing or anything.
He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.
As Rosenberg puts it, Sendak "evokes the wildness of the material text." Wild as in primal, feral, is it nature to eat what we love or is it nurture, and who is teaching us to devour what we should want to treasure?
To conquer is to overrule, to succeed in conquest is to wipe out the previous order.
What is it about consuming that is a consummation of our desires? To remove from existence by hiding something within ourselves, no matter how brief or toxic its internal journey may be to us hosts.
Digestion becomes the ultimate form of possession: to intake outsider material and integrate it into our metabolisms; to use for our own life.
Perhaps paper paste is an aphrodisiac, or inks contain drug-like chemicals when activated by saliva, the way starches break down not first in your stomach but first on your tongue.
Or perhaps consumption is not about the negation of one thing's existence but instead the preservation of it. An attempt, but nonetheless one that tries to embody something within our body, to stowaway the inanimate (and sometimes the animated) into the vessel of our living body. I digest, therefore I am a composite of digestions. I am a container of curated debris.
Digest, noun: "a compilation or summary of material or information"
My body is a library with every cell a codex, but the system is one-way and check-outs are prohibited.
My body is a non-circulating library.