A wilderness of books

A wilderness of books

This vast languishing resource was first brought home to me in Erik Reinert’s How Rich Countries Got Rich … and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor, which highlighted a lemming-level of group-think compounded by ignorance of an entire ‘other canon’ of...
A writer’s retreat

A writer’s retreat

We first noticed it when it was still a construction site, but even on a grimly dank and overcast day, there was something about this tall, light, filigree structure in the middle of fields on the edge of a farming village.  You could see it from miles away and we did...
Palladian persuasive powers

Palladian persuasive powers

Let me remember this the next time I wonder what chance there is of persuading anyone to fund ambitious cultural projects of global reach. Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) dreamed, designed and delivered. The patrons and sponsors coughed up. Voilà. This comment on his...
The Saturday of Libraries

The Saturday of Libraries

When we moved to the town of Nyon, I joined the municipal library. The building itself is worth writing about – great thick walls, windows widened with painted wooden shutters, flowers on the sills and in stone pots; a child’s dream of a library, though in...
Visit to the Leeds Library

Visit to the Leeds Library

By luck, a short visit to Leeds coincided with a monthly guided tour of the Leeds Library, one of the oldest subscription libraries in Britain.  Founded in 1768, it soon outgrew its rented premises, and in 1808 built its own elegant, neoclassical building in what was...
A beautiful reading room

A beautiful reading room

When visiting Leeds, my original university town, I decided to drop in on a few libraries, including the hulking Victorian Central Library with its splendid tiled hall which is now a café.  In wandering randomly from floor to floor, I came across a reading room on the...
A visit to the Brontes

A visit to the Brontes

When I read the journals of Dorothy Wordsworth I had a yearning to visit the Wordsworth homes in the Lake District, and by extension, the Bronte home in Haworth, Yorkshire. When invited to Leeds to speak at my old university, I set aside a day, taking the bus from...
Book as mirror II

Book as mirror II

One of the most reassuring and surprising insights I found in reading Harold Bloom’s literary criticism, was the realization that he wrote for a hidden audience of ‘great readers’ engaged in their own intimate rituals, and that, in this, I was less...

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