I remember hearing about an incident that befell the scholar and critic Frank Kermode, several years ago. He was moving, and had put boxes filled with all his most precious books (his fiction, his poetry, his signed first editions, and the like) on the street. The garbage collectors came by, and mistakenly took the boxes, leaving Kermode with a great deal of contemporary literary theory. The story once seemed horrifying to me; now it seems almost wonderful. To be abruptly lightened like that, so that one's descendants might not be burdened!
I too remember the Kermode incident and the way it made me shake my head and smile. although I suspected myself of Schadenfreude masked as poetic justice. If only Kermode had taken a stronger stand against literary theory!
Wood's thoughtful and thought-provoking piece ("Shelf Life") makes you take another look at the shelves above your desk -- as captured in my case by the photograper Brian Adams. -- DL