Reading a book or a poem in the place it’s about: it’s an obvious thing to do, if only one step less irrational than carving your initials on a writer’s birthplace. But what has reason got to do with it? Imagined approximations, talismanic associations: they do have power. In a chuck-out box in the porch of an Oxford second-hand bookshop, I once found a paperback of Stendhal’s De l’amour, inscribed ‘I Murdoch, Somerville, 1938’. I gave it to someone but feel fonder of it in memory than of almost any book still on my shelves.