Thursday, February 28, 2008

Credit where credit is due!

I'm a little disgruntled that this piece on bookshelves and the self refers to "[t]he online conversation generated by Seligman’s and Klein’s remarks" when I have been harping on this for four years. Some further points:

1. The shelf is not necessarily a performance of self for someone else. Can we not perform our selves for ourselves? Is the validation of a perceived identity not also a form of performance? That a shelf can be a mode of social interaction does not invalidate the idea that it can also be an inwardly directed exploration of self.

2. Aspirational taste implies that one intends to read the book, not that one wishes to have a Gatsbyesque wall of decorative volumes with uncut pages. *cough Klein cough*

3. I don't know who said that shelved books must be read in their entirety, but that's bollocks. If this were the standard, no proponent of the theory would be able to keep things like college texts, which are often read in part. Is there anyone out there who actually made this claim and has purged his shelves of anything for which he read only the assigned or pertinent chapters?

4. McLemee thinks his books talk to him and tell him what to read. I view my books as something like friends or family members who share my living space. My shelving scheme is less related to genre or subject than it is a separation of cliques. Let's not get into a nerd-off, okay?

5. Perhaps Nick is correct and this all stems from a Shintoist orientation that rejects the collection of unused material objects when they are not being used to the full extent possible. (Note that this is not inconsistent with Point 3; if I own a book because it has several chapters on an issue relevant to my interests or studies, I am using the book qua book to the extent I can. On the other hand, a totally unread book is being used for nothing except display, for which its contents are irrelevant and wallpaper would serve just as well, unless some deception is intended.) This also explains why I hate the very idea of students setting bags of money on fire going to law school for no good reason. Waste is a sin, even for an atheist like me. Peter Singer and the environmentalist movement would probably agree.
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