In the best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo urges a now-famous program of domestic decluttering, in which each possession is assessed for whether it “sparks joy.” Under this criterion, Kondo claims to have pared her own library down to some thirty essential volumes. Such minimalism (not to mention the treatment of books alongside sweaters and kitchen implements) might seem like another index of the Way We Live Now, in an era of Kindles, vanishing bookstores, and smartphone-size chunks of textual “content.” Yet it is also possible to see Kondo’s approach as reflecting an older form of book love: one that combines a reverence for books as talismanic objects with a personal devotion to the stories and characters they contain; one that is predicated not on the thrill of novelty but on the pleasure of familiarity, the habit of rereading, and the...
Loving Literature: A Cultural History
Christopher R. Miller is professor of English at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York. He is author of The Invention of Evening: Perception and Time in Romantic Poetry (2006) and Surprise: The Poetics of the Unexpected from Milton to Austen (2015).
Christopher R. Miller; Loving Literature: A Cultural History. Modern Language Quarterly 1 December 2016; 77 (4): 602–606. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00267929-3652691
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