Through My Library

By Raymond M. Smullyan

Copyright © 2009 by Raymond M. Smullyan
All rights reserved.
176 pages (includes 22 illustrations, bibliography, and index) ISBN 0963923161, Softcover, $14.95


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Praise for Rambles Through My Library:

June 25, 2009  

Dear Professor Smullyan: 

Your new book Rambles Through My Library is a “gem.” Thank you for providing me with many ideas to ponder. In this brief note, I’ll just mention a few before I have to return the book to the Haines Falls Library. 

There was a section that completely overwhelmed me; I say “overwhelmed” because I have “thought” it many times. I cannot find the words to express the effect it had on me to see it in print. I refer to the section on Samuel Johnson, page 52, the passage that begins “It is not easy to make allowance…” When my daughter was being operated on for breast cancer I wrote in my journal of a feeling of complete unity with suffering in the world. The strange thing was that this feeling was not oppressive…I seemed to be O.K with it. It is part of human nature, I guess, to push these things away in good times but I sometimes yearn for that feeling of solidarity with all suffering, inasmuch as I felt most human then. The biggest danger we face in this regard is becoming inured to human suffering and that’s easy in this society. 

I enjoyed all your references to book collecting. I just collect randomly what interests me and have discovered several wonderful used book places not too far from here. I know what you mean when you speak of one book that references another. It’s a little like a treasure hunt, isn’t it? I felt that way when I read May Sarton’s journals and she spoke of Florida Scott Maxwell. I immediately purchased The Measure of My Days and loved it, which reminds me, I am due to re-read it…again! 

In a lighter vein, I was particularly happy to find a passage which I intend to cite emphatically and often to my adult children: It’s the one about having your books surround you, especially where you sleep and reaching for them whenever. I sometimes also enjoy misplacing a certain favorite and having to “hunt” for it. When I find it, it is as though I have never had it in my hands before and I have discovered the greatest treasure.  I may even do this subconsciously. It’s fun! 

My family is constantly berating me for my excess of books and the casual way in which I “store” them, that is to say that I don’t have any pattern, they are all over the place. They land where they may and they stay there until they again get my attention. I read your passage over and over again, happily visualized it and took utter delight in the phrase, “play with the books.” On many a sleepless night, that is exactly what I do! Thanks to you, I now feel utterly justified in my haphazard and illogical storage methods. 

Yes, an overabundance of books (is there such a thing?) leads to the guilt-producing question of ever being able to read them all. But that is the most seductive part of collecting. You never know when you will just by random browsing happen upon that one little passage that speaks to your soul, maybe a passage that you formerly read but never properly heeded or maybe an old familiar passage you can never forget. From browsing in my father’s books, one sentence comes to mind, namely, “There are no punishments, there are only consequences.”  My father was a lifelong admirer and collector of the books of Robert Ingersoll, the post Civil War freethinker and orator. This sentence shaped my adult perceptions of “cause and effect” and I believe it led me to the belief system I hold today. It took a long time to get there though... I’m in my late 60’s! It’s curious, though, how some things we read in our youth do not manifest until later... sometimes “much” later. Today my practice is the Buddhist Five Remembrances. 

In closing, I like what you have to say about idleness. It reminds me of Pascal’s quote that “all the troubles of man stem from his inability to sit quietly in a room.” I think the older I become, the more I understand the wisdom of those words. 

Professor Smullyan, even though the Bible says you cannot be a prophet in your own land, in your case, an exception should be made for Elka Park Land. There are those of us in Elka Park who read you and love what we read! 

Your Elka Park Neighbor, 

Janet Reale


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