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This report is taken from PN Review 241, Volume 44 Number 5, May - June 2018.

Darning Beverley Bie Brahic
Roaming the library stacks makes me uneasy. Too many books I haven’t read. The flesh is sad? Alas. But I’ve read all the books? Not even close. Getting my bearings in the third (literature) floor’s musty pulp-and-paper-smelling undergrowth, I file down a narrow path between stacks to tip a few more books from the shelf.

My husband’s sabbatical at a California university has stretched into years. I miss the street corner stink of piss, the damp zinc and glitter of life in Paris. I miss the newsstands. I miss the bookshops. The campus bookstore has been taken over by sportswear with the university logo; books relegated to the caves and eaves. In Paris, the flâneur is forever being lured into small shops still in business because French law restricts discounting and free shipping (no help, unfortunately, for Paris’s English bookshops, like the much­-regretted Village Voice, which must still compete with the online trade).

But the campus dweller life allows me to indulge an old fantasy: plugging the holes in my education. Sure, this feels like one of those math problems in which the student is asked to calculate how long it will take to fill a bathtub that is simultaneously draining at a different rate. Still I persist. A card swipe gets me into the university’s Babelian library, its hushed reading rooms with rows of shiny new books (English spines one way, French the other) and the ferny canyon-like stacks. I can audit classes – heaven in my theology will be reading Dante’s Inferno / Calvino’s Cosmicomics in the dauntingly ...

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