Anxiety of Display

While browsing I chanced upon a lighthearted article about a book collection:

I once felt a certain anxiety about my book-lined living room — it was too much, no? It seemed to belong in the same category as the display of framed degrees in prominent places. Books do furnish a room — in Anthony Powell’s titular phrase — but that room would be the library, equipped with 14-foot built-ins with a rolling ladder, and I’ve never had one of those. I had to consider which impulse was the stronger: the wish to let the world admire my complete collection of the works of Raymond Roussel, or the wish not to appear a bore. Having books crowd every inch of wall space in the room in which I entertained imposed a certain burden on the conversation, as if dead authors were leaning in, contributing dry, derisive chuckles.

I wholly sympathise with writer Luc Sante. My shelves of books afford me considerable pleasure but not without a degree of squeamishness about what I am signalling. I would rather, like Alberto Manguel, have a dedicated barn to house my collection. For my eyes only.

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