"But book dipping is great fun, and not a day passes that I don't blindly pick a prize and then read a page of it to be mystified, informed, surprised, delighted, and affronted.
When you live in a library you are constantly being solicited by good-looking texts to leave your present love for their different, more novel, pleasures. New volumes are always arriving, perhaps a present from a friendly press of a fine translation from its sixteenth century French of Maurice Sceve's emblem sonnets, or Charles Rosen's Piano Notes, which you ordered over the Internet, or a roughly used collection called Songs My Mother Never Taught Me that you picked up at an estate sale; or a book you've had since you were young, and forgotten, takes hold of your eye and then pulls open your memory to the days it saved from sadness, and its patient silence since.
My books are there to comfort me about the world, for only the wicked can be pleased by our present state of things, while the virtuous disagree about the reasons for our plight and threaten to fall to fighting over which of us is responsible for the misery of so many millions, and in that way steadily increasing the number of hypocrites, jackals, and rogues.
Among them, writers of books. No occupation can guarantee virtue the way hard labor makes muscle, and only sainthood requires it as a part of its practice. So the writers write, perhaps improving their texts from time to time, but only rarely themselves.
But the books. . . the books disagree quietly, as the minds of the many readers in the library may, without the least disturbance: and in that peace we can observe how beautiful, how clever, how characteristic, how significant, how comically absurd the ideas are, for here in the colorful rows that make bookcases seem to dance, the world exists as the human mind has received and conceived it, but transformed into a higher realm of being, where virtue is knowledge, as the Greeks claimed, where even knowledge of the worst must be valued as highly as any other, and where events as particular as any love affair, election, or battlefield are superceded by their descriptions-by accounts like Apsley Cherry-Garrard's cold white journey across the cold white page-for these volumes are banks of knowledge, and are examples, carefully constructed of our human kinds of consciousness, of awareness that is otherwise momentary, fragile, and often confused. Among the shelves, where philosophers tent their troops, there is a war of words-a war of the one supportable kind-a war of thoughtfully chosen positions, perhaps with no problems solved, but no blood spilt; shelves where human triumph and its suffering are portrayed by writers who cared at least enough about their lives and this world to take a pen to paper. Thucydides knew it when he said, concerning the conflict that occurred on the Peloponnesus, in effect: this war is mine. History happens once. Histories happen repeatedly in reader after reader.
Every one of these books is a friend who will always say the same thing, but who will always seem to mean something new, or something old, or something borrowed, something blue. A remark that reminds me that I must go and see Queen Victoria. I've promised her a visit. She's in the stacks that stand in my basement now. In Lytton Strachey's biography. Still plump, a bit dowdy. Still queen." pg. 17-19 William H. Gass