The Paper House – Carlos Maria Dominguez

There will be a bigger post on ‘books about books’ and also on how this book and a surprising little bonus came into my hands tomorrow… but for now I will, if you will indulge me, give you my thoughts on a book that both reading HEiotL and a post that the lovely Simon of Stuck-in-a-Book lead me to which is a fictional book all about books called The Paper House and is one that starts with someone being killed by a secondhand book, can you imagine such a thing?

One day in the spring of 1998, Bluma Lennon bought a secondhand copy of Emily Dickenson’s poems in a bookshop in Soho, and as she reached the second poem on the first street corner, she was knocked down by a car.

It is with this very death that the novel, though I would say it was a novella though I do get them confused I will admit, starts. Though it is in fact the events after the death of Bluma Lennon that the book is in fact about, for not long after her death a parcel is delivered for her containing a cement covered copy of The Shadow Line by Conrad. The person who picks this up on her behalf is her Cambridge colleague. It is also he who then goes on a mission, to Uruguay, to find the person who sent the book a Mr Carlos Brauer, a man who in local book circles is renowned as one of the great bibliophiles. It was when the book collecting is discussed that I found myself thinking ‘oh I so agree’ which happened a lot.

It is often much harder to get rid of books than it is to aquire them. They stick to us in that pact of need and oblivion we make with them, witnesses to a moment in our lives we will never see again. While they are still there, it is part of us… Nobody wants to mislay a book. We prefer to loose a ring. a watch, our umbrella, rather than a book we will never read again, but which retains, just in the sound of its title, a remote and perhaps long-lost emotion. The truth is that in the end, the size of a library does matter.

Not only is this a quirky unusual mystery it is a book about books and one that any book lover will happily devour in a sitting or two as I did. It looks at how different people collect books and what makes collection books such a joy to each individual as well as the pleasure gained from reading. However it does in some cases give a forewarning of the costs a serious book addiction and not money something much darker indeed. Though there is no real depth to any character, apart from Carlos into whos obsession we very deeply go, it is beautifully written and you go on an unusual bookish and mysterious journey with the narrator.

I thought this was a very clever book which managed to pack in a huge amount in just over 100 pages. It seems to genuinely get into the mind of a true book lover which I can only assume is a quality that the author has within himself. I thought that the start of the book was quite a darkly comic way to start the book as the narrator tells of his grandmothers thoughts on books and reading “stop that, books are dangerous”. Also with the dark sting in the tail of the tale it covers all peoples attitudes to books from the unimpressed to the obsessed and that makes for a very intriguing and unusual read one that I am very glad to now have on my shelves. It has also left me with a list of more books that I really want to read, and what more could you want from a book about books even if its fictional?

To build up a library is to create a life.

I am amazed that this book hasn’t been more heard of, though as the book itself goes on to illustrate (ooh which reminds me there are lovely slightly fable like illustrations in the book the whole way through) with the world be so full of books how can we know all of them let alone read them all? I think anyone who likes books should while away an hour or two with this, it certainly did the trick of cheering me up after a fairly rubbish Thursday. Oh for the weekend, back to Sensation reading and catching up on rest and all your blogs. Do you like the idea of The Paper House? What could be the pitfalls of having too many books or can there not be one?


Filed under Books About Books, Carlos Maria Dominguez, Harvill Secker Books, Random House Publishing, Review

16 responses to “The Paper House – Carlos Maria Dominguez

  1. This sounds really good! I haven’t heard of it before, but I’ve just added it to the wishlist!

  2. I wanted to read this after reading the other Simon’s review and was happy to discover that my library has a copy.

    This definitely constitutes as a novella; I usually consider anything under 150-175 pages to be with anything under 35 pages or so to be a short story but that is a loose labelling and sometimes depends on the work and its content/style.

    • It was definately Simon’s review that sent me off to get a copy, I am only hoping that i can continue to push people in this books direction.

      I always get confused with short stories, novellettes and novellas, i know its all to do with numbers of words and I never notice that ha, this one does say ‘a novel’ on the front.

  3. This book sounds delightful! Thank you so much for bringing it to our attention.

  4. I must read this! I love the sentence “It is often much harder to get rid of books than it is to acquire them.”; I’m trying to weed my books at the mo and it is going slowly. Because the problem is your other quote: “To build up a library is to create a life.”. Plus books do make good wallpaper hehe!

  5. Sounds like a very intriguing book. The only pitfall of having too many book I can think of is developing a very cluttered home with piles of books everywhere and nowhere to put them. I’m sure many of us could identify with that!

  6. I may have to re-read this one. I read it in December 2007 and it didn’t do much for me. Which is odd considering the subject. Maybe I was in a post-Christmas sugar coma.

  7. Sounds great! My father would say the pitfall of owning too many books is that they weigh down your foundations & cause your house to sag in the middle – but I live in an apartment & don’t have to worry about such things! 🙂

  8. I’ve never even heard of this one, but it sounds quirky and interesting. Thanks for the heads up! Also, the Necropolis book you’re currently reading sounds really great. Is it fiction or non-fiction?

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