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[Easy Chair]

Rule, Britannica


They look like a segment of Borges’s Library of Babel: twenty-four volumes almost uniform in bulk (a thousand pages each, give or take a few), identically bound in a reddish-brown cloth that resembles the leather commonly called morocco. On the spine of each volume an alphabetic range is represented by the first letters of the volume’s first and last entries: A to Anno. Annu to Baltic. Baltim to Brail. Sometimes it’s possible to guess what these entries are, mostly not. Rayn to Sarr. Sars to Sorc. To me as a child the labels seemed like guideposts along an epic journey, pointing me through land after land: Libi to Mary. Maryb to Mushe. Mushr to Ozon. Once they had their own special bookcase of lustrous wood, three rows of eight volumes each; now they share with other stuff one painted shelf and half of another on the wall beside my desk. I still open a volume now and then, sometimes seeking information, but usually not. The set is as old as I am, and I am conscious of the similarity.

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