Friends and neighbors said Anthony P. Cima, the 87-year-old San Diego man who was buried under thousands of books in Sunday's earthquake, had recently counted volumes in his room and by his tally, there were 9,900 hardcover copies in his 12-foot-square hotel-apartment room...Fire Department spokesman Larry Stewart said it took firefighters about 20 minutes just to locate Cima's foot and another 20 minutes to get him out...
I wondered if this reader was oblivious to the world, in the grip of dementia, or if, for all we knew, so riveted by one last chapter that he simply could not put the book down. Whenever I managed to put my own books down, I wondered about the writers themselves--wanted, like Holden Caulfield, to call them up. Writing, after all, seemed to me the most important thing one could do crawling between heaven and earth for a lifetime, even if I could not say why. Even if, having read the entire set of Paris Review interviews, I could still not really say what writers did or why they did it. Or how their words came together or pulled apart or crumbled in their hands in the course of infinite reshaping. And given the natural kinship between reading and writing, I always found myself asking--and who better to ask, as one asks where chefs dine out on nights off--what the writers themselves read; what sparked and fueled their own intimate engagement with books and how exactly books nourish them.
Reprinted from For The Love of Books. Copyright 1999, Compilation by Ronald B. Shwartz. Each contribution copyright 1999 by individual authors. Reprinted by permission of Grosset/Putnam, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc.
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