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Whenever I visit someone I look at their books, and the fact that I do this probably tells you something about me.

His are imprisoned behind glass doors in an ornately carved, antique cabinet; the light reflects ghostly readers on its limpid panes. It has a key. HA! So, these books are, at least to some extent, for show. If you really enjoy reading you keep your books accessible and they sneak off their shelves to lie besides chairs and into dense little piles of paragraphs.

I scan the spines and I see some familiar titles, he has all the usual Booker and Pulitzer fodder but, oddly, he rarely has more than a single book by a given author, whereas, when I find a writer I like, I tend to compulsively acquire their complete works.

Later, coming out of the bathroom, I can't resist peeking into his study where I see shelf after shelf of science fiction and fantasy -- books whose covers announce they are 'comparable to Tolkien at his best' -- outnumbering by ten to one the books downstairs. Here are his real favourites: Heinlein, Moorcock, and (with surprisingly good taste) Le Guin.

I try to imagine him reading the two sorts of book he has. Downstairs, he will be perched on one of his murderous chairs watching himself reading some important novel, enjoying the warm literary feeling, if not the book. Upstairs, he will be lying in bed at 3am, he will not realise that he has one hand covering his lazy eye and the blurred words will dance on the final page.

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