Reading Along with David Souter

You have to love David Souter. First he tosses the world’s best tenured job out the window when jobs aren’t exactly going begging, then he doesn’t announce a book deal, then you start learning about his digs. The New Hampshire farmhouse, it turns out, wasn’t exactly a castle: no phone, no running water, a definition of Souter-rustic. Then you learn he has quit the farmhouse in Weare for a Cape Cod in Hopkinton. How many people do you know who uproot from Weare and resettle 8 miles away in Hopkinton? I learned this from a learned piece in the New York Times and explored some of its implications on my True/Slant blog (you’re invited.)

Here, though, is why I love David Souter: his books were getting too heavy for the farmhouse to handle. When you get too many books, you buy a house with stronger shelves. David Souter has his priorities right.

My father might have rivalled the good Justice. When he retired, after 28 years, from the 3-story house owned by the college he worked for, it fell to my sisters and me to deal with the books. Over a period of roughly two years we furnished a small room in the college library, gave away truckloads to anyone with a book-yearning appearance, divvied up another hundred or so and finally ripped the backs off — and this is as painful for the ripper as for the rippee, I suspect — of the rest so they could go to the country recyclers.

My current, final husband is in this same rarefied class: books are in stacks on the floor where they overflow the wall-to-wall shelves. But when a friend publishes something new or the Daedalus catalogue comes… well, what’s a reader to do.

I submit this Souter Plan for reviving the economy: accumulate more books, buy more shelving, move to a house with stronger walls when necessary. (Excepting this writer, please; I asked for a pre-nup that stipulates I will die first so I don’t have to deal with it all.) If everyone followed this plan we wouldn’t need Cash for Clunkers to stimulate the economy, and we’d probably have world peace because we’d all be too busy reading.

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