Thinking through an old article again (in which to causal relations are slightly off from the perspective of today), I re-read the full interview with Susan Howe, published in the Paris Review, from which I had borrowed two, three lines as entry to the argument. Grand words: “There’s a level”, she had said, “at which words are spirit and paper is skin. That’s the fascination of archives. There’s still a bodily trace.” Hey, Susan Howe. And she delivers an apt description of the luring books within the bliss of a decent university library ….
What I love about university libraries is that they always seem slightly off-limits, therefore forbidden. I feel I’ve been allowed in with my little identity card and now I’m going to be bad. I have the sense of lurking rather than looking. You came in search of a particular volume, but right away you feel the pull of others.
Don’t you quote Dickinson, “Luck is not chance”?
That’s right. “Luck is not chance—/it’s Toil—/… the Father of/the Mine/is that old-fashioned Coin/we spurned.” That sense of the spurned book, the hidden one, is intuitive. It’s a sense of self-identification and trust that widens to delight—discovering accidental originals or feeling that you’re pulling something back. You’re rescuing or bringing them into the light. You could call it civilly disobedient telepathy.”