Most readers have their own idiosyncratic systems for displaying the most valuable titles they own. For a lot of people, it makes the most sense to keep their favorite books on a particular shelf. At The Paris Review Daily, Sadie Stein writes about an odd phenomenon — “The Phantom Shelf,” which consists of books you love so much you had to lend them to friends. (Related: Kevin Hartnett on reading our parents’ bookshelves.)
Do you know why teachers use me? Because I speak in tongues. I write metaphors. Every one of my stories is a metaphor you can remember. The great religions are all metaphor. We appreciate things like Daniel and the lion’s den, and the Tower of Babel. People remember these metaphors because they are so vivid you can’t get free of them and that’s what kids like in school. They read about rocket ships and encounters in space, tales of dinosaurs. All my life I’ve been running through the fields and picking up bright objects. I turn one over and say, Yeah, there’s a story.
J.D. Salinger‘s house is on the market and generating plenty of buzz, but before you make an offer consider “what does it mean to want to live in a dead writer’s house? When does fandom devolve into idolatry?”
“Characters are ciphers. … We are ever reviewing and reconsidering our mental portraits of characters in novels: amending them, backtracking to check on them, updating them when new information arises.” Peter Mendelsund writes about what we think we see when we read.
If you enjoy showing the world how much you like to read, you’re in luck: The Paris Review and the LRB are asking people to submit photos of themselves reading either magazine as part of their new contest. All you have to do is post the image on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #ReadEverywhere, and they’ll pick out the top images. The grand prize is one vintage issue of The Paris Review from every decade it’s been around, along with an artwork by Peter Campbell and a vintage LRB cover print.
What can you do when you’ve been fictionalized?
Go fetal. Give the writer a good talking to. Write a letter of complaint. Write your own book, your way. Keep it to yourself and seethe. You can sue, but the bar for libel lawsuits involving fiction is very, very high. And so is the cost.
On seeing oneself in fiction, it might help, then, to attempt a larger view. Take a deep breath. Consider the passage or character your contribution, however inadvertent, to art. Try not to take it so personally. Don’t read too much into it. Cultivate lightness.
In 1847, Charles Dickens founded a house for homeless women in the Shepherd’s Bush neighborhood of London. After setting up the center’s amenities, he publicized the house using leaflets and, upon hearing that London society was shocked that the center had a piano, spread a rumor that the center boasted a piano for every resident. At The Guardian, a look at a letter Dickens wrote to the matron of the house, to be sold at Christie’s in May. (h/t The Paris Review)
Deborah Yanover, the owner of Bueno Aires’s Librería Norte, told me that his father—the late Héctor Yanover, the bookshop’s founder and another former director of the library—often received offers of first editions and manuscripts, stolen from the library of which he was the director.