18.August 2020

I have been assigned to liquidate the family library, or what's left of it. That is, the most precious parts, which were protected from the vultures invited to take all they would have at whatever price they would pay so the family could move less encumbered to an island.

The collections of Edward Gorey and Charles Adams ... The Gauguin, Hopper, and Winslow Homer ... The jewelry books ... The most important role models: Yves Saint-Laurent, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy O, the connection between Stieglitz and O'Keeffe... The rarities: The massive Jericho, a strange collaboration between a poet and a watercolorist, about the American south; the historic Theatre de la Mode; and the Thorne miniature rooms of the Art Institute of Chicago. I marvel at Gorey's wallpaper, Hopper's shadows, Louis Comfort Tiffany's colors, Al Hirschfeld's space, Saul Steinberg's simplicity, and Joel Rosenthal's ability to make diamonds look like dust.

Rushing through a pile next my desk, I think how much could be learned from these, not to mention the textbook on trompe l'oeil. I try to only look at the photos, but I drawn in to glorious and rare texts which are slipping through my fingers.

It's only feasible for me to haul a few of these treasures home across two oceans, perhaps something less than a box. So I begin to list the rest for sale on alibris, a very efficient platform which offers up the market rate. My heart sinks. Such beauty and information abandoned.

Assuredly, one does not get the same thing from the internet. One does not see the quality of line in at all the same way. One does not feel the same sense of time without the spatial structure of a book, especially a large book One is not awed by the very sense of treasure, the many layers of work that went into making this object: its shape and weight and the surface of the paper and the arrangement on the page, and the reality itself which is captured, curated, and reproduced by the finest printers.

From the internet one gets a sense of abundance and eternity – a sense which is in fact false. There is much which is not on the internet. But it will distract us in myriad, less profound, directions.

I am heartbroken that most of these books will not find their way to someone's attention and education. They are obsolete commodities, like so much else, replaced by shinier things which purport to be more, but are in fact much less, and which make us less.

After months here, passing the bookshelf every day full of its familiar objects, I only approached it and started opening books when told to cash it out. Now I hungrily snap photos of another extinction.

At least I am reading these books.

If you would like to view the collection at alibris, the Starr family store is Etoille Livres.