Missing pages

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Let’s start with the important things: my family and friends are safe. My son is too young to be upset about the loss of his home. We have enough money to pack up and go somewhere else, and we’ve received many generous offers of assistance in the meantime.

And some of our books survived on the top two floors of the house.

It’s been an interesting experience to bag up the sodden remains of the library we kept in the basement because it was too large for the living room. At first, we mourned the loss of each title we found on the floor — or the sink or the yard or the toilet. As the days wore on, though, we realized that as many as 50% of them won’t really be missed. We had a lot of books, and we had trouble getting rid of the ones we still hoped, unrealistically, to read (that biography of Chairman Mao). 35% of them will be missed, but only from time to time (books from college and graduate school, say). And 15% will be missed desperately, and knowing we can buy them again is not a consolation because they traveled with us for so long, because we knew not just their contents but their physical forms, and because there were layers of self-knowledge between their covers: lines marked, pages lingered over. It’s jarring not to have access to that anymore.

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