Last night was manic and dizzying, and it all began with re-reading Alberto Manguel’s book A Reader on Reading. Manguel is one of my favorite writers and if you’ve never read or even heard his name then go and pick up The Library at Night immediately. I command you.
If you’ve ever liked anything I’ve ever written then it was most likely pilfered directly from Alberto. But The Library at Night and A Reader on Reading are really the same books, written about the same topic (and that’s not a criticism at all). Manguel is one of the few writers where I would read anything by him, at any time. Whenenever I read a sentence of his I can hear a fire crackle in the background, the growling of a sleeping dog by my side.
Take this bit, from The Library at Night, which I think about all the time:
We dream of a library of literature created by everyone and belonging to no one, a library that is immortal and will mysteriously lend order to the universe, and yet we know that every orderly choice, every catalogued realm of the imagination, sets up a tyrannical exclusion. Every library is exclusionary, since its selection, however vast, leaves outside its walls endless shelves of writing that, for reasons of taste, knowledge, space and time, have not been included. Every library conjures up its own dark ghost; every ordering sets up, in its wake, a shadow library of absences. Of Aeschylus’ 90 plays only 7 have reached us; of the 80-odd dramas of Euripides only 18...of the 120 plays of Sophocles, a mere 7.
This place here is my library and anti-library. It is full of the worst and best parts of me, and with each I hope to better understand. And then hopefully improve. I want this place to be full of the half-finished things. The stories that aren’t good enough to publish, the ideas half-edited. I want the spelling mistakes and the excitement of not really having a plan when you sit down in front of your keyboard. This isn’t the New Yorker, I’m not here to impress anyone. I’m just a kid with a keyboard, typing and figuring out things as I go.
But it took me a long time to be comfortable with that. And I guess I’m still figuring it all out. Is this place where I’m super vulnerable about relationships? The drama! Or is it where I publish weird little stories that pop into my head? Is it where I focus solely on writing about typography?
What is this place? And, subsequently, who am I?
This is precisely what Laurel Schwulst asks in her essay, My website is a shifting house next to a river of knowledge. What could yours be? It is a luminous bit of writing. The sort that skips and hums and doesn’t have a care in the world. Laurel writes:
What kind of room is a website? Or is a website more like a house? A boat? A cloud? A garden? A puddle? Whatever it is, there’s potential for a self-reflexive feedback loop: when you put energy into a website, in turn the website helps form your own identity
That’s how I see this place, this anti-library of mine. It is a boat and a puddle, a room to help me make mistakes and to focus my attention in the right spot. But that doesn’t mean your website has to be the same! Because, as Laurel writes so eloquently: a website can be so very many things.
Let us venture forth and build our puddles!