The Perfect Library (3)

You take the damp book with you and move towards the building, tiptoeing around the selection of books strewn across the ground. Every now and again you stop to examine one. You do not put it back where you found it.

Much the same rules apply inside as they did outside. There are books aplenty, though not in their usual places. One or two sit on a shelf –  a nod to olden days  – but they are very much in a minority. No point throwing out tradition wholesale, nor is there much to be said for clinging onto it. The Perfect Library seeks to keep readers on their toes.

There are books hanging like winter coats from hooks on the wall, or like light-bulbs from the ceiling. There are books piled up on the floor: leaning towers of literature which readers are encouraged to topple and reform. No disrespect is intended. Visitors are not encouraged to mistreat book; simply to put aside preciousness. ‘Muck in’ reads a sign on one wall. ‘Get involved’ reads another.

You jump up high, to see if you can catch one of the hanging books. You get nowhere from a stationary position, but with a short run you succeed in pulling down a hefty novel. You feel as though you have just caught a large fish. Hunting for books: you like this.

The Perfect Library makes you work – but work has rarely been this fun. Up the stairs you find a series of rooms in which books are subjected to ‘experimental treatment’. In one room they have been lined up in troughs of dried lavender. In another they have been partially submerged in warm, dungy compost.

Coming out of one room you see a book nailed to the door-frame. You pull out the nail, releasing the text. You’ll take this one back with you too. When you bring it back, one or two weeks later, you’ll find for it a new place. Maybe it can go in the garden. Up a tree, perhaps. You save the nail. It can go through another book next time.

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