Chestertown, MD, September 14, 2004 — Tired of Internet surfing? Then it is time to rediscover the pleasure of browsing. For any reader who has ever plunged joyously headlong into a book or sought the mysteries of life in an obscure tome hidden in the library stacks, the publication of John Barth's Browsingwill be a special treat. Released this month by Washington College's Literary House Press, Browsing takes the reader on a literary ramble through the history of libraries, both real and imaginary, to explore what the author of The Floating Opera and The Sot-Weed Factor calls “the browserish aspect of human consciousness.”
Adapted from a speech given by Barth in celebration of the shelving of the 200,000th volume in Washington College's Clifton Miller Library, Browsing is a book for true book-lovers, a delight for the mind as well as the eye, with specially commissioned woodcut illustrations by Chestertown artist Mary Rhinelander. In this extended essay combining humor, erudition and intellectual exuberancy, Barth visits such topics as the hazards of reading on the beach; the Library of Pergamum and Borges' infinite Library of Babel; hypertexts and the Pandemonium Model of Utterance; and the challenges of deciphering another's marginalia (“In short the reader has changed the book, as well as vice versa, and I was reading the reader as well as reading the writer and, by extension, reading the writer that that writer was writing about.”)
Browsing is available in paperback for $10 from Washington College's Literary House Press, 300 Washington Avenue, Chestertown, MD 21620, or by calling 410-778-7899. Proceeds support the operations and publications of The Literary House Press alone.
Founded in 1994 by faculty, staff and students of Washington College, The Literary House Press has released more than a dozen works of fiction, poetry, essays and travel writing. The publication of Browsing was made possible with a grant form the College's Sophie Kerr Committee, which oversees the legacy of Sophie Kerr, a writer from Denton, MD, whose generosity has done so much to enrich Washington College's literary culture. When she died in 1965, she left the bulk of her estate to the College, specifying that one half of the income from her bequest be awarded every year to the senior showing the most “ability and promise for future fulfillment in the field of literary endeavor” and the other half be used to support Washington College's creative writing program by bringing visiting writers to campus, funding scholarships, and defraying the costs of publications.