Like a music album released after the death of the singer, a book carries the pulsations of life beyond life. If only for a line read posthumously, death is made nothing – scripted life has conquered. The words may have flown into nothingness, but the letters are still here, within reach, to be grasped and eaten alive.
Oral traditions are beautiful, but they are fragile as they depend on human carriers. Books are also fragile and in need of custodians.
Make no mistake, all record is fragile, no matter how materially solid. If all the world’s books were inscribed on slates of granite, their survival would still be precarious as the skill and knowledge required to read them cannot be preserved in stone. You may copy a book about cuneiform script unto an indestructible rock, the ability to read it in order to decipher the script will always be at risk of extinction.
Hence the paradox: a book may defy the death of the word, but the live word is the guarantee of that defiance.