All this reminds me that I want to get back to three beautiful short books — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists, Ben Lerner’s The Hatred of Poetry, and Günther Anders, Et si je suis désespéré que voulez-vous que j’y fasse (Wenn ich verzweifelt bin, was geht’s mich an?) All bought at the check-out counter of independent bookstores in France and the United States. Indeed, the reason I love short books so much — there are images of some of mine below — is because of French bookstores. When you’re at the cash register, you’re not tempted by chocolate bars or magazines. Your eyes rest on Schopenhauer aphorisms, a short essay on the death penalty, Neruda on solitude, or Bataille on the psychological structure of fascism. I often take one of my short books with me — to keep me company, for inspiration, and just because there is something so satisfying about them. This reminds me that I have Hazlitt’s On the Pleasure of Hating in French translation. I bought it precisely because it was a short book. The French have a wonderful way of turning long essays into short books-so you have the satisfaction of finishing an essay that has all the beauty and design of a full-fledged volume. Best of all worlds!
Photograph courtesy of Marina van Zuylen