summer reading/guilty pleasures: “this house is playing parlour games with us, I think…”

sarah waters’ the little stranger:  as if written by a literary offspring of henry james and daphne du maurier . . .
  
 
with class consciousness supplied by l.p. hartley, and wallpaper courtesy of louisa may alcott.  
 
I first saw Hundreds Hall when I was ten years old. It was the summer after the war, and the Ayreses still had most of their money then, were still big people in the district. The event was an Empire Day fête: I stood with a line of other village children making a Boy Scout salute while Mrs Ayres and the Colonel went past us, handing out commemorative medals; afterwards we sat to tea with our parents at long tables on what I suppose was the south lawn. Mrs Ayres would have been twenty-four or -five, her husband a few years older; their little girl, Susan, would have been about six. They must have made a very handsome family, but my memory of them is vague. I recall most vividly the house itself, which struck me as an absolute mansion. I remember its lovely ageing details: the worn red brick, the cockled window glass, the weathered sandstone edgings. They made it look blurred and slightly uncertain–like an ice, I thought, just beginning to melt in the sun.
 
—the opening paragraph of Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger (2009)   

 

on one’s own (largely unread) library

 

Umberto Eco’s antilibrary, or how we seek validation 

 

The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and non-dull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?” and the others — a very small minority— who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allow you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves  ill look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.

—from Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan — The Impact of the Highly Improbable (2007)