The nice thing about being a book critic, aside from getting to read books that you normally wouldn’t read (or wouldn’t want to read), is that you get to keep them, and therefore build a library. I’ve been getting spoiled lately, wishing I had more books than I actually have, while moving the ones I’ve amassed between several different bookshelves. A while back we created a dedicated book area that now seems to be expanding to other walls and shelves, and I’m already dreaming of the day when one whole area is filled only with art books. The appeal is not just to have them, however, though some are pretty, but to also use them. Currently researching for a review on Eva Hesse, I keep wishing that I had a good collection of writing by the minimalists or Judd, who wrote highly and often about her work. A somewhat forgotten woman in a generation of male sculptors, I keep finding archived articles in the New York Times with titles like “Eva Who?”
I might have to buy books every now and then, a beautiful exhibition catalog here and there, or as I need them for research, but the plan is that through connections with publishers I won’t have to. I’ve always loved the idea of having an old fashioned type of study, full of dust, dark stain, and crumbling books, but the reality of always living in tiny apartments put an early damper on that idea. I’m not sure anyone can really have that kind of room, but it’s certainly possible now to have an ever-expanding library. I still vividly remember visiting the Trinity College Library on a sporadically rainy day in Dublin, a vast hall of ancient books behind cages. It was like staring into William Randolph Hearst’s glistening, gold swimming pool on a hot day, the beauty of it was overwhelming. I wanted to touch each and every last lovely book in that cavernous room.
It’s a wonderful thing, knowledge at your fingertips, but spending hours reading every night after a long day at the office is much less appealing. I now have a lovely monograph on Pawel Althamer that I did manage to read cover to cover, however badly I wanted to skim over certain particularly tedious sections. I wrote about the book (and the experience of reading the damn thing) in my most recent book review. It was a good read, or at least good for me to read. Artist interviews can be painful at times, but artists do say some lovely things about their work and the world every now and then. I still struggle more with art speak than I do with the density of art historians, and enjoy most the essays that contextualize and inform. Writing about books, or writing at all, is a little like being back in school. You push yourself toward knowledge almost for the sake of it, and realize at some point that you are better off for it.