Tsundoku, a Japanese word that gained some circulation in the Western world last year, has been translated as “buying reading material and piling it up”, that is, not reading it. I don’t think I often buy with the intention or expectation of never reading, as some may do, but surely the proportion of books I own but will never read is rapidly going up in my senior years. I urge any others finding themselves in that situation to bring their books to The Company of Books. I think about so doing myself but the books look so nice on the shelves, and possibly might be read someday, and they’re doing no harm in my possession, so they stay. Often the trigger for people clearing out bookshelves is moving or having a relative pass on, which are not in my short-term expectations. Or cleaning house because of a pandemic which led to the first 8000 or so books that were contributed to TCB. For more on tsundoku check out this article. By the way, tsundoku is different that having a voluminous TBR (to be read) pile. TBR books are ones you still hope to read. Someday soon.
On to a different subject. I have only been in Brooklyn a few times but on my last trip, I visited the now-closed Book Court bookstore in the Cobble Hill neighborhood. While there, I bought a copy of Jonathan Lethem’s novel Motherless Brooklyn, which I have never read but which still sits on my bookshelf (see above). Even so, and despite the fact that I haven’t read anything else by Mr. Lethem, I admire him because of an article he wrote on a very short piece by Franz Kafka titled “The Leopard in the Temple” (translations vary). It goes roughly as follows:
Leopards broke into the temple and drank the sacred chalice dry. This is occurred repeatedly , again and again, until it could be counted upon and became part of the ceremony.
I first encountered this 20 or 30 years ago somewhere and it stuck with me since. A few years ago I tried to learn the source (which I still don’t know) and ran across a Lethem article in The Atlantic Magazine discussing that very passage at length. I recommend that article to you. Does anyone know where “The Leopard in the Temple” was first published?
Now for an advertisement. It’s National Poetry Month (which is why April is the coolest month, with apologies to T.S. Eliot). TCB has a great poetry display and an entire bookcase with great books with or about poetry. Time for a visit.