Books, Materiality, and Beauty

This is a bit spooky: just this morning, as I was waiting to head out for an appointment, I picked up a brand new volume sitting on my nightstand: a collection of Edmund Wilson's criticism just published in the the Library of America. And to be perfectly honest, I didn't pick it up to read it; I picked it up just to hold it, to caress it. I don't know if you've ever held a LoA volume, but they are pretty much the most sumptuous books one could hope for from an American publisher. They are thick and squat, with Bible-like pages and exquisite bindings, as well as a classic font. There is a weight to the books that is just a pleasure to hold and handle. Most of my library is very pragmatic (i.e., driven by a concern for building content on a budget, and thus populated by alot of Penguin classics paperbacks and such); but every once in a while, when I get a gift certificate, I splurge and also indulge in purchases that reflect the book as object.

How funny, then, to just read John Lancaster's reflections on the same phenomena, with the very same book, in this week's London Review of Books. Wilson, of course, would have taken a certain delight in such fetishization of his work!