Reading Rights

Magdalena Waz

During the week preceding elections, it is always difficult to find news pertaining to things other than who is leading in the polls. I was hoping to have something somebody else wrote to engage with in some way.
Now I’m faced with the choice of writing about things that are vaguely related to my topic or writing about the baby in Paris that fell out of the eighth story of an apartment building and bounced off a café awning into some guy’s arms. It’s cool that the baby survived, but I’ve no clue how long I could write about it.
So I guess I’ll keep it vague for a little bit. You might be wondering, maybe, why I have not reviewed a single book during my time as resident book-complainer at The Lawrentian. The answer to that one is easy: I’m reading about seven books at the same time, which means that I’m not getting any of them done.
But in an effort to be more Polish, I recently checked out a collection of poems by a man named Adam Zagajewski. He has been publishing poetry since 1972 and is currently a faculty member at the University of Chicago. The collection is a short volume titled “Mysticism for Beginners.”
I’ve read a poem from it here and there, but I mostly keep bringing it up to my nose to smell its newness, bending it a little to feel that new book strain in the spine. But it has been on the shelf at the library since February of 2003. The little stamp in the bottom corner of the first page tells me so.
I want to assign all of my readers a simple task. Homework, if you will. It might even change your conception of the library. Next time you go into the library to do work on the first floor, take five minutes to venture upstairs, maybe to the third floor. The literature section is along the far wall, directly above the circulation desk. Find a book that looks interesting to you and hasn’t been checked out before. You’ll be able to tell by its pristine edges and fresh smell. Now, check out that book.
If you want, you can read it and let me know how it went. That would be much appreciated. But I’m afraid to ask you to do more than I do myself. If you don’t want to read the thing, simply keep the book in your room.
I know that sounds silly. But you’ll see the commitment that you’ve made to the book daily, and you’ll feel a little bad that you and everyone else had neglected the book. And when you return it at the end of the term, you will feel remorse, and you will vow to check out more books in the future – which you will then make time to read.
At least, this is how I hope it will work. It’s kind of like the “Vote now” signs outside of dorms and the “I voted” sticker on the lapels of jackets. The book will keep reminding you that you should be doing the right thing by reading it, and eventually, you will.

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