Monday, March 29, 2010

SAT time!

Speaking of Twitter... Last weekend I asked my Twitter followers and Facebook friends to complete my version of the iconic SAT question:

Finish the SAT question: Twitter is to writing as:________ is to _______?

The responses ran the gamut, ranging from the serious assessment of the Tweet as an art form to the downright hilarious and/or the scathing.

These are some of my favorites...

Twitter is to writing as...

  • Instant is to Coffee.  (Denny Hitzman)
  • chaff is to wheat. (Dale Estey)
  • "cultural" is to "phenomenon" (Ron Curren)
  • the SAT is to testing. (Elspeth)
  • American Idol is to singing. (Scott Perkins... one of the other ones)
  • 100 calorie pack twinkies are to normal sized twinkies.(JoNell Franz)
  • anonymous quickie with a hooker is to sex. (Dre Sargent)
  • babbles are to press conferences. (Heather Glass)
  • feces is to food. (Rydell)
  • top ramen is to cooking. (Gwen A.)
  • taking drugs is to your brain.  (Sheila Murphy-Nelson)
  • a pygmy donkey is to a unicorn. (Rachael Heiner)
  • a penny dreadful is to William Shakespeare. (Rex King... yes that's his real name, trust me.)
  • Uwe Boll is to moviemaking. (Ray Axmann)
My favorite though, goes to Todd X of the blog Iced Tea & Sarcasm, who appreciates the nuance and brevity of writing within the 140 character limitations...
  • "the net" is to "tennis." It's just another form and the parameters help dictate the form.
All in all, I think I agree with Todd.  There's a challenge to writing within guidelines, especially limitations of length.

"Nothing ventured, no brain drained..."

This is priceless.  From the New York Review of Books, this is Margaret Atwood weighing in on "social media" that web-driven whirlwind of electron chatter... what a great lady.  Great post, very witty and fun.

"The Twittersphere is an odd and uncanny place. It’s something like having fairies at the bottom of your garden. How do you know anyone is who he/she says he is, especially when they put up pictures of themselves that might be their feet, or a cat, or a Mardi Gras mask, or a tin of Spam?"

Read More from the Source

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Thoughts from the Rose City

For our anniversary, The Engineer and I took off and disappeared into the wilds of Portland, Oregon this past weekend for a very bookish anniversary vacation.  While there, I had several thoughts I wanted to share...
  • I have the coolest, most beautiful wife ever in the history of humankind.  Among the many reasons this is true is that she allowed... nay encouraged me to spend an inordinate amount of our anniversary trip in bookstores.
  • I love Powell's City of Books and could live there quite happily.
  • Portland is the most walkable city I've ever visited.  Bar none.  Next time I'm leaving the car here.
  • I've now had coffee prepared by a robot and I rescind my previous yearning for a robot to make my morning Joe.  (That technology isn't perfected yet.  Trust me.)
  • I'm curious about citizenship in Powell's City of Books and would happily emigrate given the opportunity.
  • Portland has more hat shops per capita than any city anywhere.  I don;t have any data to prove that, but I've fairly certain it's an accurate statement.
  • Everyone should wear more hats!
  • People should stop worrying about "looking like a tourist" and look up more often.
  • There aren't enough "flatiron" style triangular buildings in the world and we need to build more of them.  Portland has a pleasing number of them.
  • Did I mention Powell's Books?  I did?  It's wonderful.
  • My wife is the best and I am looking forward to the next ten years and the ten after that and the ten after that... ad infinitum.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

VIDEO - Oil for master's brain

I must admit that I'm torn between two reactions to this video: "I need to get me one of those" and "Oh my God, if they learn to unlock the power of the bean, it's all over for humanity!"

The first one is winning. And they shall disarm us with their cuteness...

A girl so nice I married her twice...

I was married twice on the same day using two different wedding rings in front of 2 different officiants... Thankfully, it was the same bride each time. 

For various reasons, the man we wanted to have perform the ceremony couldn't do the legal bits.  So the morning of the wedding, we had to track down a Justice of the Peace that would work on a weekend; apparently they don't like to work weekends.   Bright and early on our wedding day we were up and in a car with our two witnesses in tow (plus a few others members of the wedding party who were awake and willing), we raced into downtown Omaha, NE.  There we found a pleasant old judge willing to say the necessary words and sign our documents.

It wasn't intended to be a ceremony, but the old guy had been dragged out of bed early on a Saturday and wouldn't hear of rushing things, so he gave us a bit of a homily, recited the Apache wedding prayer and gave us a little speech about fidelity.   And he insisted that we exchange rings... except we didn't have rings.  The jewelry store had messed up the order and her ring had never been ordered.  (Scott has heart attack)  After a bit of shouting, rushing was ordered, apologies exhanged and we were supposed to pick them up on the way back out to the state park where the "real" ceremony was to take place.  But we didn't have rings for the judge because we didn't think we would need them.

So I borrowed one.  Yes, I got married using my best man's wedding ring and my bride became my wife with her engagement ring.  "With this other guy's ring I thee wed... please remember to return it after the ceremony."

Anyway, instead of retreating under covering fire from rice and/or birdseed like a normal bride and groom, we had a second ceremony to get to.  Quick kiss, run out the door, race to the jewelry store, race out to the ceremony site to set up and change and get married again for the family and the friends.

That was ten years ago tomorrow.  And it was just the beginning of a profound adventure for two people who do not think twice about blazing our own path or doing things in a way that confounds others.  That's the way we like it.

With all my love and devotion...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'm a Twit

Did you know you can follow @Pages2Type on Twitter?  All the stray thoughts that don't require a full blogpost and then some... plus such random silliness and brainfarts as decide to can-can dance across the stage of my thoughts.  

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Dangers of Checklists & Writing Advice...

This post from the blog of mystery author Elizabeth Spann Craig reminds me to underline the point that any writing advice I give here is strictly my opinion.  There isn't a "right way" to do this and in the end (as I've said many times) it boils down to putting your butt in a chair and putting words on a page. 

The chair is optional. 

There are structural things that work better than others, there are ways of starting that seem to attract more readers than others and ways of ending and unfolding your story that seem to work better than others.  But you really should learn those by feel, not by rote -- by reading books, not reading books (or blogs) about how to write.

How do you start your novel?  By putting words on the page.  Even if they're the wrong ones, put words on a page.  It's like parenting, if you wait until you're sure about everything, it'll never happen.  Writers aren't people who talk about writing, they're people who write.  Everything else in writing advice columns, blogs and books borders on the waking the dread hooptedoodle.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a novel waiting for me behind this screen and I need to get back to it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The future

"Of course I care about the future, it's where I plan to spend the rest of my life."
-Charles Kettering

Or you could just listen to this song and sit back to enjoy the apocalypse:


If you're ever in the Seattle Area and find yourself needing to leave the planet in a hurry, you should know that the Greenwood Space Travel Supply Company is here to help. (NASA take note.)  If your pirate ship runs aground in San Francisco and need to repair and refit your crew of scalawags, the Pirate Supply Store is ready to get you back on your way.  If you are a superhero whose secret identity if fraying, the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company stands ready to assist.  Similar suppliers stand ready to act as quartermasters to the extremes of society, whether you are a time traveler stranded in LA, a mad scientist looking for that final piece to complete your giant robot, or if you're not a secret agent not looking to stand out in Chicago.  Even if you're utterly convinced that Bigfoot is a Redsocks fan, we can hook you up.

What do these links in an unlikely supply chain have in common?  Each is the local front for the 826 Project, a non-profit effort to provide tutoring in reading and writing across the country.  The 826 Project was co-founded by Dave Eggars, that brightest of American literary lights.

If you have some writing chops and a hankering to volunteer, the 826 folks are an excellent place to look.  I work four days a week in a writing center at a local college and I can't help but wonder when I talk to the tutors about the challenges their students face what a little help earlier in life could have done.

I just found out that last month, the 826 Project was awarded the Henson Honors for thier contributions to society.  An award well merited, I think.

Click around through those links.  You never know when you might need a Black Hole Starter Kit or a banana cell phone.  Heck, everyone needs a gallon of immortality around the house.  And how often have you invested in something like that and had the money go to a good cause?

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Miscellany: The Ides of March, Looking for the Next Story, Keep An Eye Out for Characters and Practical Filekeeping... et al

It's March 15th. If your name is Julius, you might want to hide for awhile. And watch that Cassius, he's a skinny fella and skinny people tend to know a good deal about knives.  I don't know why that is, but Mister Shakespeare is not to be second-guessed.

I've said several times in recent days that I was looking for the next novel to write, but in all honesty, I generally have several projects in various stages of completion at any given moment.  The real question isn't "what book do I write next" but rather "which book shall receive the brunt of my attentions?"

Since I pronounced the book I'd been working on "Done" (but never finished) I've been shifting the piles of notes and character concepts and sundry whatnot trying to find the next story to receive my concentrated efforts.  I've spoken before of my habit of squirreling away every idea that springs to mind in one of two computer files.  Nascent story ideas are "Seedlings" and characters go into the "Cocktail Party" to mingle with other character ideas in hopes that they'll naturally form alliances, hook up, etcetera.

As you know if you've been following this blog for any length of time, I subjected myself to the insanity of NaNoWriMo and came out of it with fifty thousand words of a proto-novel.  By itself, this isn't really a great novel and the story I created that November by itself isn't a novel.  So I tossed it into the garden with the other seedlings and it got trampled on by the attendees of my character cocktail party and... well, I think I've found my next project.

Today's writing tip is as old as Julius Caesar's very bad day: Save every idea you have.  Write them down so you won't forget them.  File them away, let them mingle, grow, mutate, and do the things that are best done out of the sight of decent society.

I know I keep repeating that, but it's worth repeating.  I'm always amazed at how often they come out of the files stronger for having spent their time there.

And in case you doubt that talking to the people you come across every day has value, today I sat down next to an archaeologist who knew and acted as a sort of general factotum to Thor Heyerdahl.  I would never take his stories because that would be rude and I rarely turn people I know into characters wholesale.  But if there's not a story seedling or two there, I don't know where else to find them.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Those who stand and wait...

Yesterday I lost a coworker at the writing center who was quite a bit younger than me. He was paraplegic and caught a cold and it went rapidly from there to pneumonia. I didn't even know him that well. He was the guy with the huge personality who dominated every conversation, who thought the best of everyone. And now he's gone and we're all staring at one another, prodding at the silences and wondering how they will be filled...

On the one hand, it's a terrible tragedy. On the other hand it is good that we get shaken once in awhile, lest we fall asleep, grow complacent, think ourselves immortal. There is an old saying that one should get busy living or get busy dying... Tony was busy living even when he was dying. It's an example for all of us, I think...

So don't wait to write that book you've been thinking about. Don't wait to paint that painting or begin that sculpture. Sometimes we stand back and wait as though someone will call on us, pick us for the team, give us permission to start... while the Tonys of the world wonders what we're waiting for.

Bedside Tables -- Writing with the King, Part Two

NOTE: This is part two of a sort of live-blogging of the book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King. Why would I do such a thing?  Click Here here for the introduction/explanation.

Peanuts creator Charles M. Schultz once wrote a forward for a Calvin & Hobbes collection in which he praised Bill Watterson's ability to draw bedside tables.  "Bill Watterson draws wonderful bedside tables.  I admire that.  He also draws great water splashes and living room couches and chairs and lamps and yawns and screams and all the things that make a comic strip fun to look at."

Stephen King draws amazing bedside tables.

Monsters are one thing, but I've often wondered about the ability King has to make us unsettled by the relatively commonplace.  I think it has to do with his ability to draw the bedside tables so clearly.  King's grasp of the real world is so great that he can recreate it for us in all its banality.  This ability to capture the commonplace is his greatest asset and what allows his best work to shine.

Perhaps owing to the periodic disruptions of his childhood idylls by the constant moves and adversities of his hardscrabble upbringing, King as a refined sense of disruption.  He creates a world of complacency and normalcy where his characters begin their journey with everyday problems, ensconced in the daily dreams we know so well.  Because King knows better than anyone that any disruption is measured in relation to these things.  The more comfortable yesterday was, the greater the psychological impact of tomorrow's disruptions.

King never comes out and tells us this, but all of his focus in the first few chapters of the writing section harken to the enforced simplicity of composition and prose championed by grammar mavens mssr's Strunk & White, as well as the bards of King's generation: Hemingway, Steinbeck and Salinger.  Through the chapter on dialogue, King focuses on creating a reality that is clearly defined and drawn in the simplest strokes, offering the reader the maximum opportunity to fill in the blanks themselves, investing in the story.

It is the simplest recipe for compelling, character-driven fiction.  The more invested we are in the normal lives of the characters, the more we pull for them to get through whatever hardship the author has in store.  And the more we are affected by their disruptions and peril.

My feelings about King's writing advice are sometimes mixed.  He presents his opposition to plotting a novel in stark terms just shy of good versus evil.  His absolute conviction that he can throw a bunch of characters into a situation and let them find their own way out is compelling.  And this approach has brought him some fiction that is sublime and some fiction that (I think) falls apart ere the conclusion.  Much of the former certainly could not be improved by imposing a plot outline upon it.  But I'm given to think that a lot of the latter could have been improved had he a bit more of a roadmap to follow from page 1 to page 501.

If the book had been written by a "straight" thriller writer, I'm sure we would have been given the opposite viewpoint and as is so often the case when I am presented with an extreme viewpoint, I tend to think that there's a happy medium between the two.  A 'sweet spot' if you will where the balance is achieved.

And while it may sound arrogant for me of few bylines to contradict the writing advice of a lifetime member of the New York Times bestseller's list, I think that every writing book should, by law, be required to bear a warning label: "Actual mileage may vary."  The only single bit of writing advice that is applicable in all situations and to all writers is "Sit in chair, put words on page."  (And I'm told that the chair is optional.) 

Oh, and read.  I will happily and wholeheartedly endorse King's urging to never stop reading and that those who don't read have no business writing.  I'm reminded of Twain's maxim that "Those who won't read have no advantage of those who can't."  Failure to read means you have no idea what's already been done, and like a driver who watches his GPS instead of the road, you may get where your going, but you'll hit every pothole, pedestrian and cliche between you and your goal.

Next: Writing exercises!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Library on the hoof...

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of libraries and librarians.  This one inspires me even more than most.  Featured in the New York Times back in 2008, the famed Biblioburros of Columbia in a documentary by Ayoka Productions...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Designated Dreamers - Writing with the King Part One

NOTE: Part one of a sort of live-blogging of the book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King.  Click Here here for the introduction/explanation.

Hyperthymesia is the technical name for people who remember an absurd amount of detail about their personal history.  Frequently as I read memoirs and autobiographies I am struck by the degree of detail that the authors allegedly remember about their lives when I can barely recall what I had for dinner yesterday.  I can only assume in all charity that these folks are compulsive diarists, giving themselves a lot of source material to work with.

Stephen King is not afflicted with this condition.
Mary Carr (author of The Liar's Club) presents her childhood in an almost unbroken panorama.  Mine is a fogged-out landscape from which occaisional memories appear like isolated trees . . . the kind that look as if they might like to grab and eat you.
                    -Stephen King On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

I'm going to dispense with the first half of the book in a single post because this is a writing blog, not a Stephen King fansite.  I'm honestly not really a big fan of King's books. Some of them I like, some I don't.  I do wish he would write more books with young/old protagonists like It and the oft-maligned Dreamcatcher.  His dreamier stuff is superb as well and I don't really gravitate often to the end of the shelf where things go bump in the night.  I came to him through his short stories and essays.  His short stories are his best stuff, I think and I've posted links before to his essays and op/eds on the state of writing and especially censorship. 

King's memoir is refreshing for its self-effacing humor, candidness and because he allows it to carry the vague uncertainty that most of us feel when discussing our childhood.  And he certainly pulls no punches, though most of them are aimed at himself.

Self-pugilism aside, one is left with little doubt that the kid was destined to write the books he has written.  Something about his childhood and early adulthood made it inevitable.  I tend to think that while anyone really can (and often does) write, there are those who are born to tell the stories other people want to hear and among those few, some are selected to turn them into sculpture, paintings, photographs, movies, plays and books.  Society's designated dreamers.

Stephen King is one of these people and into his hands was pressed the darker sort of dreaming that we do.  Nevertheless, his childhood has that curious carefree quality that even kids in desperate circumstances seem to have the innate ability to eke out of their lives.  Normalcy is in the eye of the beholder, after all.  He and his kid-genius brother Dave seemed to make it work and create a good deal of good memories among the stops on the gypsy road that took them from Wisconsin to Maine in a series of hops from one family member to the next with a single mother trying to make it work in an America that was almost purpose-built to discourage single parenting.

In all honesty, I re-read this book periodically and I usually skip pages 1-100.  (The writing section begins on page 102, but on page 100 he talks about his desk and the place writing and art have in life which I think should never be overlooked.)  Though I don't recall seeing it on the most recent read-through, I seem to recall King telling the reader what page to skip to if they came to read about the writing and didn't care about his childhood.  Maybe an edition edit or my imagination, I don't know.  But I think that  at least the first time you read it, you should read the bio.

Young Stevie King, nor matter how foggy though his memory may be, is presented with the clarity of one of King's best young characters.  A life lived amid disruptions and viewed in retrospect with a wise and writerly eye.  And I think that the adventures and hardships, hopes and dreams of young Stephen King and even the addictions that almost claimed his older incarnation give us a compelling insight into the man and the process by which a sizeable chunk of almost four decades of American popular fiction came into being.

I may not be King's biggest fan, but his approach to the craft, his words, his deft use of language, especially in his short fiction, are a study in American letters.  His influence is undeniable and no matter what you think of what he wrote, I have to admire the way that he wrote most of it.  And though his so-called 'literary standing' is often met with an eye roll by critics, I think his attention to the language will  ultimately save him from the dustbin of history.

Whatever you think about him it's hard to deny that King is a man with things to say and the chops to say them in memorable ways.  What more could you ask for from your designated dreamer?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I almost forgot!  It's National Grammar Day in the US! This is a good day for all of us to think about the health of our colons!

Writing With the King

In January I made the vow that I was going to 'get you to write' this year.  At the time I had no idea how I was going to pull that off.  I still don't.  As Indiana Jones said in Raiders, "Plan?  I'm making this up as I go...

So far this has involved posting a lot of writing advice and links to writing advice written by others.  But here's the thing... it's all bullshit.  Every word of it.  No advice applies to every writer in every situation and most of it only applies to the person who wrote it under the universal caveat "This is what worked for me...".

I've read a lot of books of writing advice.  I did this partly in my former capacity as a bookseller (the travel and reference section was my beat for awhile) and partly as a blogger reviewing these things, but mostly I did it because I like them.  I really do.  In all their contradictory quirky glory, they have a certain charm.  Most of them are at least half biography and there's comfort in knowing that the backgrounds and inner workings of the authors I look up to are just as goofy as I am.

Novels are generally so polished by the time they hit the shelves that the general reader has but a fleeting impression of the man or woman behind the words.  It's a bit like seeing the deck but not the shuffle and assuming that the cards are always in that neat package.  We touch the author's minds when they are at their best (it is hoped) and only in fleeting interviews and at readings do we get to glimpse the authors.  Writing guides show us that even the  best authors start out with the same tools we do.

Last week I posted a link and reaction to a list of lists, the accumulated writing wisdom of the great and the good all gathered in one place.  It really is a great list, and contradicts itself regularly and well worth the time spent reading it.  I find it heartwarming how often the lists contradict one another and the breadth of advice offered is breathtaking. But it underlines certain facts which bear out the central thesis of this blog (if it has one) that there's no magical path between "I want to write" and "I have written" except to sit down and start putting words on a page.

If a writer's to-do list or writing guide cannot be summed up as "Butt in chair, fingers on keys" then ditch it; it's not worth reading.

I don't actually recommend you spend a lot of time reading writing guides (certainly not as many as I have).  One of the reasons why I periodically recommend one here is because there are too many out there and there's such a mindnumbing sameness to them that it's easy to miss the gems.  I talk to agents and editors who tell me that too few aspiring writers spend too little time reading them, but I'd wager that as many aspiring writers spend too much time reading them.  At some point you have to put down the writing book and write your book.

And go easy on the bullshit.  Even if it's mine.

Some few of them are wonderfully light on the bull.  Among the many writing guides on the shelf next to my writing chair, there are three that still have crisp new covers.  They look like that because I keep giving away my copies to friends and other writers I meet who've never read them. There are many good ones out there, but I feel that these are the most honest and straightforward of the bunch and also the most fun to read.  (Humor is important to me in a writing guide.) I've reviewed two of them here: Telling Lies for Fun & Profit by Lawrence Block and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.  The third is On Writing by Stephen King.

It's worth noting (or maybe it isn't) that as I sit writing this, an Eric Clapton/BB King song is playing overhead called 'Riding with the King'.  I'm not one to believe in omens, but I choose to take that as a good sign.  I want to spend a bit of time with you, exploring the inside of Stephen King's head.

Don't worry, it's not as scary as it sounds.

We're going to talk a bit about grammar, the value of popular fiction, the ways in which personal experience bleeds into our writing and the value of drawing a decent bedside table.  And along the way I think we should do our due diligence and perform the writing exercises and post the results.  I'm going to whether you do it or not.  So I invite you to come write with me and take a ride with the King.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What do e-Books really cost?

We've talked a bit about the myths and misconceptions that swirl around what it costs to produce a book, especially an e-Book.  Many bloggers seem to think that they are or should be free.  (How authors and publishers are supposed to put food on the table producing a free product is rarely discussed.)

The New York Times breaks it down for us.  And based entirely upon my experience on the bookselling end of the publishing paradigm... I think they got it right.  Very interesting for any consumer of books (e-Books or print) and well worth the read.

Published: March 1, 2010

E-books are cheaper to produce than print volumes, but consumers may not realize that expenses like overhead and royalties are still in effect, publishers say.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The thought it suggests...

Knowing I lov'd my books, he furnish'd me,
From mine own library with volumes that
I prize above my dukedom."
             - Prospero, The Tempest
The past few years, I've been slowly remodeling my home.  Inside and out, we've been taking this 70's rambler and giving it the touches that make it immediately apparent who lives there.  Naturally, we started with a library.  Two entire walls of this garage conversion are hidden behind books.  I even closed up a window in one wall to make yet more room for bookshelves and still I find that I'll need more before the year is out.  It is a wonderful problem to have, really.

One of the things that saddens me about the incipient 'revolution' of e-Publishing is that the library will fade from our homes.  That I will no longer be able to take the first measure of a person I am visiting by a quick perusal of their reading habits.  Our habits, our beloved and well-thumbed books and our aspirational texts all whisper a story about us, and when combined speak volumes ahead of a word of introduction being spoken.

In the future do I ask to see someone's Kindle when I walk into their home?

The poet John Whittier said something about a book being not so much the thought it contains, but the thought it suggests.  By its presence, a book is an implication that it has been read and appreciated.

As much as that troubles me, both culturally and aesthetically, what bothers me most is the moving target.  Because what is a book these days?  Is it a tangible thing of pasteboard and paper, leather and thread, buckram and glue?  Is it merely the delivery device for it contents?  Or is a fragile net of words by which we are able to capture our dreams and ideas to share them with others?  The thought it contains, or the thought it suggests?

And more importantly, are the two indivisible?

For centuries, the bookshelves of our homes have been the symbol of our literacy, a glimpse inside our minds and hearts for our visitors and a personal repository of all our intellectual aspirations.  Will a world where my reading habits are no longer immediately apparent to those sitting next to us on the plane or visiting my home be a world that inspires me to read more or less?

Reading is a public act and it always has been.  In the spines we spot in waiting rooms and airport terminals as much as the spines we peruse on the shelves of our friends' homes, we find one another and yes, we also judge one another.  I cannot claim innocence here.  What I see you reading makes an indelible impression upon me.  Whether or not I see you reading makes even more of an impression.  From the books I peruse on your shelves I am putting together my mental impression of you and how you think.

I would like to say that taking reading out of the public realm will mean we will no longer be judgmental because the innocuous plastic case of your e-Reader will conceal from the world at large whether you are reading Seneca or Silence of the Lambs, Tennyson or Twilight.  But the fact is, that once we strip away that last vestige of public evidence that actually reflects the contents of our mind and character, then our appearance will be all the remains for the world to judge us by.

I, for one, would rather be judged on my mind.

Home libraries are and always have been more than just a room to hold our books.  Most book collectors aspire to the look and feel of the libraries of our imaginations as much as we aspire to own the books we love.  Books that have been put up on the wall simply for the sake of making the homeowner look more erudite than they are is not new.  Seneca the Younger complains about it and he was writing around 54 AD. But when the bulk of our written culture is delivered digitally, buying books becomes a more conscious act both for better and worse.  And displaying books in your home becomes ever more and more a choice of ostentatious display and a decision made by the decorator akin to hanging a painting rather than the display of beloved words by an avid booklover.

Or maybe I just worry too much.