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Issue 15 – Lent 2023

Nunc Dimittis

Labyrinth of the World

On Little Free Libraries.


Ken Liu tells a story in the first pages of The Paper Menagerie about a race of aliens he calls the Caru’ee, who only stand as tall as the smallest piece of punctuation and who build their cities and live their lives in the pages of books discarded or abandoned by civilizations which are normal size. They “seek only to use the old books, now devoid of meaning, as a blank space upon which to construct their sophisticated, baroque cities.” These miniscules’ civilization, then, is a library of unwanted, incomprehensible books.

I only read about them in Liu’s book because I found it in a Little Free Library which I pass every day on the way home from work and which, if I am on foot, I always stop and check for anything new. Really, I do this everywhere. I cross the street to avoid missing a Little Free Library; I make friends wait and balance stacks of John Grisham novels and defunct travel guides while I dig around the back of these wooden sidewalk boxes; I convince myself I won’t mind carrying a volume of mediocre science fiction stories the few miles back home. I don’t think this is so unusual.

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About the author

Christopher McCaffery

Christopher McCaffery works at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and writes the Washington Review of Books, an email newsletter.

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