Monday, April 23, 2012

snake rude sparrows

Urban snake with graffiti.

Is it rude for a visitor  to examine the titles of books on his hosts shelves? The question arises while discussing a passage in Lorenzo da Ponte's current  work in progress. A character asserts that it is rude. Where Da Ponte himself stands I am not quite sure. When I am a guest in someone's house I make a point of looking at the  book spines lined up on shelf, and would not dream of doing otherwise. It has never occurred to me to avert my eyes. If books are displayed surely they are there so that their titles may be scanned. If not they should be hidden in a cupboard.  Is it rude to look at pictures on the walls? To make judgements not asked for could in some circumstances I agree be rude. When people visit my house I am often disappointed if my bookshelves are ignored. Apart from reading them I like to talk about books, and books ignored could be a conversational opportunity lost. I suppose the builder who a few months ago while talking to me in my study remarked, "you've got a lot of books," might have  been accounted rude by some particularly when he went on to ask "How many have you read?" But not accounted rude by me.  It was a  natural question  from a natural man whom I hold in the highest respect.

Did I mention the sparrow tree? There is a holly tree in the garden of a house next door to The Grove. It is nearly always a-twitter with sparrows. Usually you can hear but not see them. This Spring however  they are a fluttering all round the tree as well as a-twittering.  Today they fly on to the branches of the oak next door and down on to the grass. Sparrows are supposed to be declining in numbers. Not so here.


marja-leena said...

It's a wonderful sound - that twitter of numerous birds in a tree! I'm not sure what kind they are here but they never to fail to surprise us with their sound, coming from high up in the tallest trees for a just a few days.

Roderick Robinson said...

Just in case anyone takes this the wrong way I always read book titles on shelves. It's a bit like doing the second half of a psycho-analysis. Sometimes I prefer the book titles to the host's chat. People in the know often restrict my visits by keeping me on the other side of the threshold.

Lucy said...

I've never been quite sure of the etiquette of looking at bookshelves. I generally tend to do it, but have noticed many people don't. My sister once compared having one's DVD collection on display to having a skip outside the house.

I don't know that I want to be judged on the books on my shelves, though, especially as the most visible ones in a visitor's line of sight tend to be cookery and reference, which must look rather limited.

I can't imagine picking up someone's Kindle (or other e-reader) and flicking through their home page to see what they've got, but that might be more flattering, since I've collected all manner of interesting and obscure freebies I'll possibly never read.