Each morning at around 8am, I stumble down the steps to the kitchen and pour myself a cup of hot coffee, slide into my favourite chair, take a sip from my mug and stare groggily into the middle distance. After a second sip, I generally reflect on my life’s greatest blunders, recall friends who are now dead or simply wonder about the passage of the years and how things ever came to this pretty pass. With some frequency, though, I often think about books and book collecting.
This occurs partly because my dilapidated, cat-torn armchair faces a wall of dark brown shelving. In fact, this room surrounds me with books. If I glance to my left I see shelves holding numerous volumes of poetry and fantasy, comic novels and such personal favourites as the Oxford edition of the Sherlock Holmes stories and Joseph Mitchell’s Up in the Old Hotel. If I turn to my right there are scores of books about music and art. Do I need to add that even more books can be found in other rooms, as well as the basement, attic and garage?
You might expect nothing less from a guy who has spent over forty years writing about books for the Washington Post. Just in the last year my weekly columns have extolled Eleanor Farjeon’s Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard, David Lindsay’s A Voyage to Arcturus, the novels of Charles