Magic and Madness in the library

A review of A review of Magic & Madness in the Library edited by Eric Graeber

As a library student, checking out a book titled Magic & Madness in the Library: Protagonists Among the Stacks (edited by Eric Graeber) was almost serendipitous. The collection of story excerpts range from classic authors like Miguel de Cervantes and Voltaire, to the infamous feminist author, Virginia Woolf, to current royalty of genre fiction (the inimitable Stephen King and Ray Bradbury).  Of course, what holds the collection together is the topic: how madness and magic have played out and in libraries, both fictional and real. Beginning with an excerpt from Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes, published in 1605, and leading up through the years to The Giant's House by Elizabeth McCracken, published in 1996, this collection draws together some of the most interesting stories about libraries and magic and madness. Some of my favorites from the book include:

In the excerpt from Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes, the story unfolds as to the fate of main character's fictional library, thought to have caused Don Quixote's madness. The result will fire up any like-minded bibliophile.

Jonathan Swift's tale is one in which the books themselves, vying for library space, fight for preeminence--a topic which could make anyone mad. As a library student, however, this battle would solve many library's space issues.

Another passage has been gleaned from "The Library of Babel" by Jorge Luis Borges, in which the author describes the ideal library, the Universe, which holds all the knowledge of the world: "In the vast Library there are no two identical books." -- such idealism there is.

In yet another, "The Library and the Librarian" by Edmund Lester Pearson, the narrator meets a very interesting character who shows him incredible books--that have never existed! Such items as: "The True Precepts of the Dramatick Art" by William Shakespeare, and "a strategical study of Waterloo" by Napoleon, and a continuation of John Wilkes Booth's diary -- wish I could read those titles! But, alas, I cannot.

While all of these were great, my most favorite excerpt was from "The Library Policeman", a novella by Stephen King, in which Sam, the narrator, goes to the public library and meets an intriguing and old-fashioned librarian.  To find out


I read this book ten years ago.
Your review makes me want to read it again!

Thanks for commenting on my very first book review!

I just want to say that I described Virginia Woolf as an infamous feminist"" only because I've studied some of her work in undergrad and the discussion therein made her seem larger than life

Magic and Madness in the Library sounds like a fun read! I appreciate your mentioning of it! It surprised me, however, to hear Virginia Woolf (or her feminism) called infamous."" The study of this famous novelist's life and work might touch on some controversy

Thank you, Tina, for the clarification. And thanks for sharing your review.

I'm glad I could uncover this again for you. It was such a treasure for me to find in the first place.