I wish I could tell you why I loved Kate Atkinson‘s A God in Ruins, a companion piece to 2013’s Life After Life. It’s been weeks since I finished the novel, and I still don’t feel up to the task of fully addressing our love story. Suffice it to say, in internet parlance, A God in Ruins has left me “feeling all the feels.”
Much of the career guidance I’ve received over the years has suggested that I do what makes me happiest. I’ve never found a job that pays me to read, but I’ve worked in a bookstore and I’ve pursued life as an academic. Neither ended up as my perfect match. Last week I found my new dream job, thanks to a BBC New Magazine profile on book-collector-for-hire Kinsey Marable. Marable’s company, according to his website, collects, catalogues, conserves, and deaccessions books, in addition to furnishing private libraries (need a ladder, anyone?). Marable’s clients include individual collectors like Oprah, for whom he acquired a first edition of every winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, as well as decorators and architects needing to fill empty shelves. (Oh, to have the problem of empty shelves!)
The clients may keep the books, but it seems like Marable himself has all the fun, buying books for which someone else pays. I’ve never hunted a rare book on someone else’s behalf, but I’ve hunted a few for myself, my best find a copy of English poet Wendy Cope‘s Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis (1986). Having first encountered Cope’s work in my Introduction to Poetry to class, I searched for years to find her work outside of the Norton Anthology, an effort belied by the ease with which it can currently be purchased from Amazon. Even if the pleasure Marable experiences in his work is halved when the books find their place on someone else’s shelf, it’s hard for me to imagine he doesn’t have the best job in the world.
I am, of course, mildly concerned by the idea of books as decorative items. I wonder, has Marable had any requests from Pinterest afficianados interested in collecting books by color? One hopes, too, that collectors at least showcase Marable’s effort and forgo shelving their books spine in as one decorating trend dictates. I worry, too, about the idea of books as commodities acquired for cachet versus content.
My wish for Kinsey Marable’s clients: may you ever regard your books as investments in your intellect, your spirit, and your soul, not just as an item in your portfolio or fillers for your shelves.
My wish for myself: Kinsey, call me! I’m ready!
Yesterday the Library of Congress announced Juan Felipe Herrera as the nation’s twenty-first Poet Laureate. Notably, Herrera is the first Hispanic chosen for the honor.
Though not familiar with Herrera (yet), I already feel a kinship with him. When asked to share one of his poems in an NPR interview, Herrera chose “Let Me Tell You What a Poem Brings” from 2008’s Half the World in Light: New and Selected Poems: