Library Walk

Some Books Are To Be Chewed

By J.S. Anderson, author of Book of Hours: The Beguilement of Brother Alphaios, first in a series of intriguing, suspenseful literature published by Lucky Bat Books. Our thanks to the author for this blog. May reading be such a pleasure for all!

Set into the sidewalk on East 41st Street in New York City, along the eastern approach to the New York Public Library, is a series of bronze plaques which nearly escapes the eye. Some twelve to twenty feet apart, they relay piquant or poignant or otherwise revealing bits of wisdom from the writings of great authors.  Right there among the foot-traffic, they require a pause and a moment of reflection or more.

Library Walk - photo by J.S. Anderson“Some books are to be tasted,
others to be swallowed,
and some few to be
chewed and digested…”   

So says Sir Frances Bacon from below my feet, great bite marks in the books that illustrate his point.  I am sage enough to agree with him.

After years of business travel and consuming what I call airport books, then turning to writing myself, my tastes have moved to works that can be chewed.  Chewed on, over and sometimes up.  It’s the kind of book I wish to write.  The way I’d like to be read, if only I were skilled enough.

“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms”, pronounces poet Muriel Rukeyser, also from below.  It is good news for this writer; there’ll always be some character to seize upon, some tale to worry myself through.

But then, just yards away, Willa Cather chimes in, her comments set in bronze as well: “…there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before…”

This more discouraging bit of universality is repeated eight more times—playfully, I suppose—or lest we somehow miss its meaning.  Or because there is simply nothing else to say.  Only two or three human stories?  She sure ups the ante from Rukeyser’s wide open field.

Now I spot Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and I am transported to the ethereal:

“Then read from the treasured volume
The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.”

Ah, the beauty of the voice, and indeed the rhyme, are fortunately not limited to the poet.  Rhythm and the music of words are also the instruments of prose for those who choose to use them.  Reading aloud my sentences is my way of knowing whether they are right and if they are musical.  Reading aloud my work, with all the inflections I intend, brings music to my voice.

And not only to be read, but to be read aloud, with the beauty of voice and all the experience the reader brings to it….  That, that is completion.


Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626), from “Of Studies”
Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980), from “The Speed of Darkness”
Willa Cather (1873-1947), from “O Pioneers!”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, (1807-1882), from “The Day is Done”

The plaques described above are part of the Library Walk, “a celebration of the world’s greatest literature,” sculpted by Gregg Lefevre and sponsored by the Grand Central Partnership and the New York Public Library.  They were installed in 1998.

Photo by J. S. Anderson, Detail, The Library Walk, NYC

J. S. Anderson is the author of Book of Hours: The Beguilement of Brother Alphaios, published in 2013 by Lucky Bat Books. Mr. Anderson is working on a sequel, Book of Hours: Peter’s Parchment, which is due out by the spring of 2015. Learn more at


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