The convenience of books

Kathryn Schulz is a staff writer at the New Yorker magazine, and she’s one of the best journalists I’ve read over the last few years. Her feature about the potential of a devastating earthquake in the coastal Northwest, and her reporting about the stink bug invasion, are perfectly excellent. The March 25 issue includes a shorter memoir about her father’s love of books, and how he stacked them up, around, and down the sides of a bedroom dresser.

There’s a paragraph in the middle of Schulz’s piece about the novel Middlemarch, which her father regarded as the greatest in the English, and others found near it. “I don’t know if he had completed either of the other two books, or even begun them. But it doesn’t matter, I suppose. No matter when my father died, he would have been—as, one way or another, we all are when we die—in the middle of something.” Sublime.

Schulz’s description of her father’s books took me back to the literary cocoon of my friend Richard Gildenmeister, whose apartment in Cleveland was crammed full of books (and more). That short profile I wrote about him in 1996 is still one of my favorites. I’m glad, too, that I recorded Richard telling me some of the stories about the famous writers he met in his long career as a bookseller. Schulz tells of the stories her father told her when she was young. “I regret to this day that none of us ever thought to write them down.”

Erin has kept a running list of the wondrous and humorous sayings of our children. She wasn’t with us tonight when, after a long day of travel, Oliver said of this place we’ve come to visit, “There are so many convenient things here that I haven’t noticed before.” I heard him later in bed, reading from a book.



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