In my dream I saw an enormous library. In this dream, the library was huge, of course — brown, concrete, plate-glass, enfolding. The concrete was brown and the building was huge, ugly in a beautiful way, enormous but I said that already, plate-glass and all of this heavy brown stone, like so very 1970s, so huge and stark that it became beautiful, like Brutalist architecture — you could look that up — like 1970s communist Brutalist architecture.
The windows of the library reflected the windows of the very similar-looking building across the street, so it was windows mirroring windows, glass mirroring glass, until everything became very smeared and stratospheric.
In my dream I approached the library and in my dream I knew what was inside. So I entered. The circulation desk, etc. The silent attendants behind the desk, except they seemed nice, and in fact were sort of quietly joking with each other.
Then the main stacks, the rows and rows of books, arranged by Dewey Decimal number, card catalog number. They still had card catalogs here, in this distant land. What the library contained was all the books that I would ever want to read, and each book was perfect, and each book would be better than the one before it. This is what I knew, going in, in the way that you know things like this.
I opened a book and started to read. Tolle, lege, etc. But then all the books were so wonderful, and the library was infinite. It became hard to concentrate on the one book, knowing that each book in the library would be the best book that I ever read. The book in my hands was the best book that I had ever read, but all the books in the library would be like that, and for a second, the book drooped in my hands, and I despaired. Why read this one and not that one. I saw myself, endlessly shuttling through stacks. But as soon as I picked up one book, another would be there to replace it, and so how to begin, or end, but also how to begin. Then I strengthened my hands and began, somewhat halfheartedly, to read the book that I already held in my hands. How to feel about all of this helplessness. To delight or despair at it.
In the morning I awoke. And I knew what the dream meant, and I knew what the library was.
image – U.S. National Archives