Communion Of Dreams

Citizens of the republic of reading.
January 25, 2011, 11:23 am
Filed under: Government, Society, Writing stuff

I don’t agree with everything he has to say. But this piece by Philip Pullman is excellent on several counts, this passage among them:

I still remember the first library ticket I ever had. It must have been about 1957. My mother took me to the public library just off Battersea Park Road and enrolled me. I was thrilled. All those books, and I was allowed to borrow whichever I wanted! And I remember some of the first books I borrowed and fell in love with: the Moomin books by Tove Jansson; a French novel for children called A Hundred Million Francs; why did I like that? Why did I read it over and over again, and borrow it many times? I don’t know. But what a gift to give a child, this chance to discover that you can love a book and the characters in it, you can become their friend and share their adventures in your own imagination.

And the secrecy of it! The blessed privacy! No-one else can get in the way, no-one else can invade it, no-one else even knows what’s going on in that wonderful space that opens up between the reader and the book. That open democratic space full of thrills, full of excitement and fear, full of astonishment, where your own emotions and ideas are given back to you clarified, magnified, purified, valued. You’re a citizen of that great democratic space that opens up between you and the book. And the body that gave it to you is the public library. Can I possibly convey the magnitude of that gift?

I’ve got a wide streak of libertarianism – I don’t want others, particularly government, meddling in my life as though it were a nanny. But I was like Pullman – I came from a home which didn’t have books, and without a local library I would never have grown into the productive, creative adult I became. Not all kids will avail themselves of the opportunities a library presents, but it seems very much to me that Holmes had it right when he said: “Taxes are the price we pay for civilized society.”

Jim Downey

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