Today, at the very end of my stay in Dublin, I decided to honor the long and illustrious literary history of that great city by doing a mini-tour of its bookstores. Not surprisingly, there are quite a few options for the avid bibliophile, from purveyors of rare and used books to Hodges figgis, just across the street from Trinity College, where it seems you can purchase just about any volume in print.
You see, I’ve always loved books. There is something about the physical book that sets it apart from any electronic equivalent. Yes I know the book is impractical, compared with its more modern competitors. It’s heavy and wasteful of resources, it takes up far too much space, and you can’t take your library with you when you travel.
But ah, the sensory experience! The feeling of opening the cover, riffling through the pages, the heft of a book in your hands, the wondrous physicality of black ink on textured paper, the very smell of it. All of these things contribute to a powerful sense of connection.
Some might say that there’s nothing even remotely rational about this view of books. After all, the act of reading is, by its very nature, a renunciation of the physical world in favor of a symbolic realm of pure information. Yet there it is.
But what to buy? Some neglected work by a great Irish poet? A play by Shaw perhaps? Maybe something written in Irish Gaelic, just for the sheer beauty of the words on paper, even though I wouldn’t begin to know how to read it.
In the end I chose a collection of short stories by Philip K. Dick. Yes, I know, it’s not Beckett. But I think it still counts.†
† Not surprisingly, PKD has cited Beckett as an influence. (see The Selected Letters of Philip K. Dick 1938-1971. Grass Valley: Underwood Books, 1996, p 56).