Short essays on libraries, literature and life.
As an eclectic writer, editor and academic, Monson (Nonfiction/Univ. of Arizona; Vanishing Point: Not a Memoir, 2010, etc.) defies conventional continuity to make leaps of connection, not only between paragraphs, but even within a sentence. He continues to challenge the very meaning of meaning, daring readers to come to terms with “the book, the book about the book,” and the very concept of the library, be it public, prison, personal, seed, digital or abandoned and repurposed. “A library is a synonym for slow, a silent coil into the past’s dust,” he writes. “Quick transmission of anything here won’t get you anywhere.” Monson writes of the future reader, even lover, with whom he connects through a book and of the life that you leave behind, not merely in the books that you’ve written, but the ones you’ve read: “You get at least two afterlives. One resides in memory, not yours, but another’s. You don’t get to choose whose. The other is in the disposition and dispersion of your books.” These essays are more often playful than impenetrable, though they defy easy paraphrase or analysis. The author suggests early on that readers start with the section called “How to Read a Book,” which he places in the middle of this book and which he begins, “Read this first. Or read this last.” He later advises to use the book “like a game. Reading is participation, but I want more of you. So mark it up. Annotate a page. Trade a boring essay with another copy.” Each reader will have a different experience with the book, which the author suggests is as much the reader’s book as the writer’s.
Writing that requires a receptive readership as flexible as the prose.