My brother and I were able to fantasize far more extravagantly about our parents' tastes and desires, their aspirations and their vices, by scanning their bookcases than by snooping in their closest. Their selves were on their shelves.
My daughter is seven, and some of the other second-grade parents complain that their children don't read for pleasure. When I visit their homes, the children's rooms are crammed with expensive books, but the parent's rooms are empty. Those children do not see their parents reading, as I did every day of my childhood. By contrast, when I walk into an apartment with books on the shelves, books on the bedside tables, books on the floor, and books on the toilet tank, then I know what I would see if I opened the door that says 'PRIVATE--GROWNUPS KEEP OUT': a child sprawled on the bed, reading.
I always wanted to be a writer, and I did want to be a novelist. In college I took a couple of classes that taught me I would never be a novelist. I discovered I had no imagination. My short stories were always thinly veiled memoir.
For me, literature is a way of enlarging myself by learning about people who are not like me.
His books commingled democratically, united under the all-inclusive flag of Literature. Some were vertical, some horizontal, and some actually placed behind others. Mine were balkanized by nationality and subject matter.
In my view, nineteen pounds of old books are at least nineteen times as delicious as one pound of fresh caviar.