The Connections

Thomas H. Benton, a pseudonym for an assistant English professor from the Midwest, publishes “Stacks’ Appeal” in this week’s Chronicle of Higher Education. Benton writes of the rewards of good old fashioned book-browsing – moments, for him, “that were almost erotic in their intellectual intensity.”

I have had moments in reading a text – an ordinary one that might now be found online – when I noticed a minor reference in the margins that sent me a few shelves down to find a much more obscure book that was packed with unexpected clues that changed my project entirely. …

Other times I have made connections in the stacks based on simple adjacency, the similarity of bindings, and the suggestions of scholars who frequented the same aisles. I once had a useful, relevant book fall on my head like Newton’s apple. Perhaps it was pushed there by some ghostly scholar, one of my forebears whom I might consider myself privileged to join in the posthumous academy of spectral stack walkers.

In a box in a binder somewhere I’ve got a paper copy of “The End of Serendipity,” an article published in the Chronicle years ago. It had a similar message – celebrating the accidental connections we make through books.

In non-celebratory news, WBUR in Boston has canceled the terrific radio show “The Connection” and fired enthusiastic and engaged host Dick Gordon. What a shame. Today, big-time education educator Howard Gardner offers “A Missed Connection” in The Boston Globe. To WBUR’s leadership, I say: Boooooo. I’m sure there’s a petition starting to make the rounds.