Pamela Paul on the Beauty of a Disorganized Bookshelf
The Author of My Life with Bob Talks to Paul Holdengraber
Paul Holdengraber talks to New York Times Book Review editor Pamela Paul about her new book, My Life With Bob, the relationship between authors and readers, library books, backpacking through China, developing empathy though reading novels, un-organizing bookshelves, the Invisible Institute, and the sad fact that you’re never finished reading—or writing.
Pamela Paul on the different lenses through which to view writers
I’m editing these writers in my work here at the Times, I’m reading them as a reader, and then professionally I’m also a writer, so I can relate to them, although I don’t compare myself to the greats. So I sort of perceive them on these multiple levels. Even the greatest writer, when you’re editing them, you don’t think of them as necessarily the greatest writer, you’re also thinking about the things that need editing. When you’re approaching them as a reader, you’re seeing them in a very different light.
Pamela Paul on “My Life With Bob”
Our personal lives are intermixed with out reading lives and that’s the way that My Life With Bob kind of started. I began it when I was a teenager and what was going on during adolescence was, quite frankly, not all that pleasing. So, often my reading was a form of escape and this diary was different than others that I kept; it wasn’t full of angst, petty fights and problems, but was rather what I was reading while all of that was happening. It was where I’d rather be, rather than where I actually was.
Pamela Paul on the beauty in a disorganized bookshelf
I don’t have them all organized. I’ve tried to organize them and they always kind of recede into chaos no matter how hard I try to put all the Penguin Classics with the orange bindings side by side or to put contemporary literature, to get all of one novelist, because I’m constantly playing with them. What I like about that disorder is that it allows that element of surprise and serendipity. When I’m looking over my shelves, trying to figure out what I’m going to read next, I don’t know where everything is and that enables me to be surprised. Which I like because especially nowadays so much of our attention is highly directed.
Pamela Paul on finding empathy through reading novels
It is impossible in one lifetime to experience everything. And one of the things that I try to show in this book is that you can experience multiple types or ways of life throughout the course of your lifetime, but I could never be a coal miner in 19th-century France but, I could experience what that might be like if I read.