Over at normblog today, Norman Geras asks a vexatious question:
Not exactly a new normblog poll…
… but I would really like to hear from you on how you would react to being offered the following choice. You are going to some distant and lonely and low-tech place where you will have to spend the rest of your days, and you can:
- (a) either take 100 books you have already read and which you may then re-read without limit, those being the only books you will ever get to see;
- (b) or not take any of the books you have already read, however much you may love some of them, but instead have a free and regular choice from all the books in the world you haven’t yet read, to be supplied to you by the Mobile Library for Isolated Readers in Distant Places.
Would you go for (a) or (b)?
My first response was just to wave off the question as too capricious to bother with. But then it began to nag at me. If I had to choose, which would it be?
It seems natural enough to pick (b); after all, the number of books one has never read is, in effect, almost all the books ever written, minus a paltry few, and anyway you’ve already read the ones you’ve already read. But the books I have read are such an essential part of what I am that the idea of never being able to commune with them ever again — to re-read a beloved favorite, or to refresh my memory of some vital and formative passage — seems such a cruel deprivation that I think I might very well choose (a).
I just don’t know. It’s still eating at me.
Which would you choose?