The wonderful folks at Da Capo books offered me a review copy of one of their most recent, and, after all, who am I to turn down a free book--I took them up on the offer and I'm pleased that I did. Bound to Last: 30 Writers on Their Most Cherished Book is an unusual volume. It's comprised of a series of thirty essays about, predictably books. But this is really about books, not content, not story, not literature. And as a result some unusual volumes find their way into the collection. For example, Rabih Alameddine highlights as his most cherished book a battered paperback edition of Harold Robbins's The Carpetbaggers. Shahrihar Mandanipour looks to a Farsi translation of Das Kapital. Victoria Patterson, not surprisingly, considering the power of her own work, looks to William Trevor: The Collected Stories. Perhaps the most touching of all of these is Karen Green's tribute to her late husband via The Collected Stories of Amy Hempl, and perhaps it is touching because we understand the circumstances.
Each of these essays examines an actual copy of a book--some still owned, some long since vanished, that occupies a central place in each author's life and looks at why that volume is so important. This is really about books--about stories, but also about paper, binding, blue, covers, hard and fast real life printed on paper books. But I should note that there is nothing, or at least very little reactionary here. This isn't an argument for books against electronics, rather is is a celebration of the very tactility, the very corporality of books that so many people have cherish. It is a tribute to the power of incarnation, or at very least inpaperation of words. While I will continue to argue that what matters is what was written, no matter how conveyed, I know that I too am deeply subject to the intangible lure of the book--paper, binding, thread, ink, cover, all. I have not left off buying or acquiring them, nor will I, even though I can carry ten thousand or more with me in my various e-book readers.
A beautiful collection--perfect for the bibliophile--I can't recommend highly enough the celebration caught between these covers--the book that, perhaps, in the future, if asked, I might choose as the one to celebrate.