Thursday, February 12, 2009
Circulation. Tim Horvath. (sunnyoutside. POBOX 911 Buffalo, NY 14207) http://sunnyoutside.com
Tim Horvath, a recent graduate of the University of New Hampshire MFA program, has penned a short novel “Circulation.” It deals with a young Circulation Director at a town library, and his past relationship with his late father. His father was a dyed-in-the wool eccentric with a capital “E”, who held close to his breast a never completed opus: “The Atlas of the Voyager of Things.” It is described as an impossibly all encompassing work: “That documents the marvelous, intricate, globetrotting chain of events by which things come to be what and where they are.” The father did complete an arcane book “Spelos, An Ode to Caves” that had a small, but loyal cult following.
The father in this novel reminds me of a character in Joseph Mitchell’s nonfiction account of eccentric New Yorkers “Up at the Old Hotel,” Joe Gould. Gould went to New York City and worked as a reporter in the 1920’s for the New York Evening Mail. During his time at the newspaper, he had his epiphany for the longest book ever written. He would title this book An Oral History of Our Time. The book was supposedly based on a word for word account of people’s lives, which Gould had listened to. The book never existed, but Gould insisted, often raving in the streets of Greenwich Village, that he was feverishly working on it.
The casual reader and the bibliophile will love this book. It traces these men’s lives through their obsession with books and arcania. Here is an inspired passage that describes the son putting himself in the place or, well, the jacket of a old, underused, book:
“… likely it has sat on the shelf next to its companions, growing old, peering out at the movements of patrons, sizing them up perhaps just as readily as they are sized up. Yes, I know it sounds strange—you might conclude that I, and not my father, was the one suffering from delirum, but I have occasionally tried to take the perspective of the books on my shelves, imagining that they choose their recipients as much as they are chosen. Like animals in the wild, they can, I suppose, camoflauge themselves such that at times they blend in with their surroundings as readily as a tree frog, hugging the walls of the shelves around them, appearing less palatable than the plump bestseller they lean against… Or like abandoned puppies in a pet store… perhaps l, like these books, can only hope to make an impression—they can poke themselves out just a bit further, than the nearest competitor, jutting forth an irresistible moist black nose between pouting eyes.”
And here is a description of a library in Borge’s fiction “Library of Babel” that describes the life of the book, and thusly the life of man:
“One of the most striking stories I read when I was in college was Borge’s “Library of Babel”, and on occasion I have thought myself the proprietor of that very library. Borge’s
library is a metaphysical marvel, a library that essentially comprises the whole of the universe—the universe as library… Within the library that Borges conjures, not only is every book written shelved somewhere but every possible book is shelved…The conceit is too dizzying to think about too long, but it serves as a good antidote to certain fundamental realities: funds are limited, books go unread, tumble out of print, serve as doorstops—all too effectively I might add; the greatest libraries of civilizations burn down, suns collapse…And each life is limited…there is only so much reading that one can consume in the course of a lifetime…”
Doug Holder/Ibbetson Update/Somerville, Mass/Feb. 2009