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Have you heard of The Future Library? It's an art project of sorts, started by a Scottish artist near Oslo, Norway. She is growing a forest that, in 100 years, will be used to print 100 books which are being donated by authors from around the world and kept, unread, in safekeeping until then. The first author to provide a manuscript was Margaret Atwood. There are 4 books so far. None of them can be read until 2114, when the 1000 trees planted in Nordmarka (assuming they are still around after 100 years of climate change and global warming) will be milled and turned into the paper needed to print them. In addition to Atwood who is from Canada, selected authors so far include writers from England, Iceland, Turkey and South Korea.

As an artwork, the project encompasses the living world, the written word, and time. It's quite ambitious, considering that the manuscripts will be kept in a building currently under construction that is made from the wood of the trees that were cleared to make way for the trees planted for the project.

I'm not sure what I think about this.

On the one hand, COOL. What a neat and different idea.

On the other, what do you mean I won't get to read any of those books? I LIKE Margaret Atwood. Even if I live to be 103, like my grandmother (nearly), it will only be barely halfway to the publishing point. I liked David Mitchell's book Black Swan Green and I liked the movie Cloud Atlas, which was adapted from another of his novels (which I haven't gotten around to reading yet). What other authors that I like will be selected and agree to write a book that no one will get to read in living memory? My KIDS won't get to read them either, most likely, unless THEY got the longevity gene from my grandma. And honestly, she couldn't even read them now, if she wanted to, since the eyesight of a nearly-103-year-old is not the best.

And to make things more elitist, once the books ARE published, there's no guarantee you'd get to read them anyway, as the project is selling, via artist galleries, 1000 certificates entitling the holder to the full 100-work anthology. Just another way in which the rich get first dibs, I suspect.

Also, I find it both ironic and a little painful that she cut DOWN trees in order to plant more, though we do that all the time, so I guess it's okay. Even if there are no guarantees that a) there will be a forest 100 years from now, b) the wooden building the manuscripts will be held/displayed in will stay intact for 100 years and c) humans will still be around to read them or care. I suppose 100 years isn't that long, in the grand scheme of things, but considering how fast things are heating up, I'd say all bets are off.

And just think about all the books that are already gone, that we never got to read. All the burned manuscripts, all the lost works, all the libraries gone to dust. All the languages you don't know. We can't read those either.

I think books should be for everyone. The more I think about this and the more I write here, the more I find I'm against the whole idea. There are already so many books that I will never get around to reading, no matter how fast I go, no matter what other activities I neglect, not even counting the time I spend re-reading books I love. But I want the choice to read them. Unfair, but so is life, and that's a fact. You read it here first.

And I didn't even make you wait 100 years to do it!

“We are of the opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read.” – Jules Verne

“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.” – Henry David Thoreau

“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.” – Joseph Brodsky

“Never put off till tomorrow the book you can read today.” – Holbrook Jackson

So there, Future Library.
mood: mellow
music: Lulu—To Sir With Love


And you didn't require it to be printed so that we could read it.

But, man oh man, the Lulu song really brings back memories.

While it does initially sound like a cool idea as an art installation, I wonder if really it's just some navel gazing, symbolic gesture for a tiny artistic elite. There seem to me to be too many unknowns for it to be something worthwhile for the preservation of literature. Imagine in a hundred years when they fell the trees and no-one can recall how to use them to make paper!

You also have to wonder if the financial and environmental costs of building and maintaining the Future Library are justified. And why would the authors not want their manuscript read until long after they died and were unable to see how critics and the public received it? That in itself seems strange.

Maybe that's part of the attraction? No editor, no reviews, no worry about fans loving or hating it. But still, I find it bizarre. All that work to write a book and no one will even read it for 100 years, long after the author is dead and gone (for at least the first good bunch of them) and maybe never.


First, I wonder if this isn't just a way to ensure that future generations will treat these as discovered works, like finding an unpublished Mark Twain short story or Shakespeare sonnet hidden in a church somewhere. Like a time capsule for literature, maybe.

At the same time, I've never gotten onboard the "I need real books" train, so this doesn't appeal at all to me, or interest me. I get the aesthetic; I just find it easier and faster to read electronically, and no danger of being swarmed by stacks of unread books (it's also easier to read several simultaneously, or easier for me, which I tend to do).


From Megsie

This just seems weird. Who is going to manage this once the great thinker that thought this up is gone? Dumb.

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Feeling generous? Be my guest!

I can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.

Abraham Lincoln

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