Earlier this month we launched our fifth issue of Contents with the announcement of a new book club. Intended to celebrate the multiple ways we find connections between our readings, we picked a book, The Library at Night, by Alberto Manguel, that does the same.
I started reading the opening section, “The Library as Myth”, while Frank Ocean's Nostalgia: Ultra played in the next room. In a curious moment of synchronicity, what I was reading and what I was hearing converged.
From The Library at Night:
In Elias Canetti’s 1935 novel Die Blendung (Auto da Fe), Peter Kien, the scholar who in the last pages sets fire to himself and to his books when he feels that the outside world has become too unbearably intrusive, incarnates every inheritor of the Library, as a reader whose very self is enmeshed in the books he possesses and who, like one of the ancient Alexandrian scholars, must himself become dust in the night when the library is no more. Dust indeed, the poet Francisco de Quevedo noted, early in the seventeenth century. And then added, with the same faith in the survival of the spirit that the Library of Alexandria embodied, “Dust it shall be, but dust in love.”
From Dust by Frank Ocean:
Who’s that talking in the library?
Who’s that talking in my library?
Is that you? No I won’t put you out
Cause what would this place be without my muse
Nothing special, every book in here I wrote
Some I’m not too proud of some I wish I could burn
So many pages I wrote, wish I could revise them
But there’s no erasing and the best advice I got
Was keep writing, and keep living, and keep loving
And when the ink dries and the pages turn to dustSo will we turn to dust, so will we dust,dust.
This is why I love words; why I love music and why I love art. It’s also why I love this book club. In less than five minutes on a January afternoon, a depression-era Bulgarian Nobel Laureate, a seventeenth-century Spanish poet, and 25-year-old singer-songwriter from New Orleans became inextricably linked within a new archive; my archive.
These are the connections we seek to celebrate.