On saying goodbye and farewell to `The loose-leaf library'

It's time to roll the credits. First appearing in the Tuesday, Aug. 30, 1983, issue of the Monitor, ``The loose-leaf'' featured ``James Russell Lowell on valuable gabble,'' an excerpt dwelling on the proclivity of the ``English race'' to debate endlessly about everything. Selected by then Home Forum editor Roderick Nordell, the excerpt was apt. True, the English race talks too much, but beware the dark day when nothing is said or written ... which, in a roundabout way, was the purpose of the loose-leaf: writers talking to readers through memorable slices taken from their works.

Readers were invited to take up scissors and clip out favorite leafs and read further into an author's world. With no apologies to Lowell, the loose-leaf was tried and true ``valuable gabble.''

Some readers scissored regularly and suggested authors to us; others told us the excerpts were too short, too fragmentary. Yet down through the Tuesdays of loose-leaf offerings, there was no attempt to be comprehensive, just enticing. In ``The Reading of Books,'' Holbrook Jackson said, ``The end of reading is not more books but more life.''

To those who will miss the loose-leaf, we offer appreciation for loyalty and promise no withdrawal from distinguished authors past and present. To those who will not miss it, we solicit suggestions or comments regarding your expectations....

Margaret Williamson, Home Forum editor between 1931 and 1952, once wrote, ``Sometimes a visitor calls to see me who is just a little grieved over the shortcomings of the page. That person may say something like this: `Yesterday I didn't like your picture very much. I've been familiar with that Gainsborough portrait for so many years that I'm bored with it. Your leading article was about some place in Greenland. I know nothing about Greenland and I don't care. The other articles were, for the most part, not exciting. But right down in the furthest right hand corner, you had a poem that was a gem. Why couldn't all the rest of the page be as delightful as that?'

``Well, occasionally I've tried the experiment of replying in some such vein as this: `If you found one thing on that page which you enjoyed especially, perhaps that was all you had any right to expect. I cannot plan the whole page, or any one whole page, just to suit your tastes. I'm striving to meet the needs of many kinds of readers in many kinds of places.' My visitors are usually affronted when this point is first brought to their attention, but in the end they acquiesce. And when they learn to regard the page in this new and more generous light, it is entirely probable that they will find more than one article to enjoy.''

Read as a whole, day after day, The Home Forum strives for enjoyable and enlightening ``valuable gabble.''

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