When is a bookshelf not really an extra bookshelf? When you don't have to build it.The extra shelves he first mentions are kitchen counters, and the tops of kitchen bookshelves. As it happens, we have no room above the one bookshelf in our kitchen, and only a foot or so of books one counter. But there are stacks of books on two tables in the living room, and before the doors of a china cabinet in the dining room. I suppose that we could with more discipline thin the shelves to make room for the four or so feet stacked on tables. But how long would that last us?
We do not measure on a Jamesian scale, though. In looking through Latest Readings, I was constantly reminded that the man who reads an hour or two per day will never catch up with the man who reads six or eight hours per day. At twenty or twenty-five this reflection might have made me want to rearrange my life to manage that six or eight hours. Now I shrug: I have accumulated more compelling causes of regret.
I wonder about some of James's judgments in the book and have no way of evaluating others. I do agree with him on Ford Madox Ford and Parade's End:
Tietjens, as a character, is the merest wish fulfillment, the self indulgence of a mendacious, chaotic, casually womanizing author who would like to project himself as a pillar of integrity and self-sacrifice, the honest master of his feelings.Yet he immediately follows this with
(In this respect, Tietjens is a prototype for Waugh's Guy Crouchback, the author's daydream about what he would like to have been, instead of a portrayal of who he was.)Probably Waugh would have liked to have come from old Catholic gentry. But in other respects it is hard to see how Crouchback could represent Waugh's wish fulfillment.