If the laws of poetic justice were as incontrovertable as the fundamental laws of physics, than the city of North Reading should be overwraught with good books and good book lovers. But it isn't. And they aren't. The Reading in North Reading is pronounced Redding, by the way. (I'd have known that I if I were from around here, I was told.) And so maybe there are some unseen acts of poetic justice, or rather, poetic irony at work in the universe (or at least in New England) because this morning, after I spent a hundred minutes on perilous Massachusettes freeways to get from my Providence book shop to a North Reading book sale, a sale that advertised itself as having "over 45,000 items", my face, already pink from the cold, turned red with embarassment at the "items" that were offered for sale. Nominally books, but more accurately trash. Even more accurately, a once vibrant forest slaughtered to make coffins for the deadest of dead prose. These books deserved the torch. They were the saddest bunch of rejects, the sorriest collection of also-rans and never-weres I'd seen a long time. I felt pity for them and for myself and my fellow North Reading readers. It was an angry pity. A jaw-locked pity that followed me all the way home. I couldn't wait to get back to the sanity of Ada's shelves and to see the bright faces and proud spines of all my old friends (Nabokov, Joyce, Amis, etc.).


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