I am reading Cantor’s paper on the transfinite numbers, with the famed diagonal argument — reminiscent of my youth, because I first read that argument in Latin, either in my living youth or at a time when the memory of life was near enough to be almost the same thing.
Terence is reading a lurid dime novel, from the popular culture collection of the university stacks.
Something with pirates, or cowboys, or princes in exile with hidden troves of rubies and tiger-skins in a mansion on Park Avenue: the sort of thing that Jay Gatsby would have read in his boyhood. (Yes, by way of curiosity, I do read tales in the modern manner, but I like my romanticism tempered with a bit of realism. Monsieur Fitzgerald is quite right; that story never ends well.)
The ephemeral trash of the storytellers of printing-press and pulp paper is now burning away in its own acid, and the library keeps it in treasure-boxes like Crusaders’ spoils of war.
There are advantages to seeing in the dark. The custodians of the library would not let us in by daylight, nor would we care to go.
Notes: Cantor’s diagonal argument is one of the foundations of the theory of transfinite numbers. The original argument dates from the Middle Ages and was updated by divinity-student-turned-mathematician Georg Cantor to late nineteenth century mathematical notion (and duly footnoted).