On your parents’ bookshelves little comes and goes. Few books are added; old books are rarely taken down or away.

The relics of a more intense age of reading—of school, of university—their books are castaways, washed up on a beech of elegant shelves, evidence that your mother and father can still do it, or that they did it when they were young in the sixties when—suddenly—everyone was doing it but, being older now, it’s understandable they don’t do it so much anymore.

You too once thought accumulation was achievement, decoration, or at least soundproofing (look how many writers are photographed before a wall of their books!). But your shelves have no stability: books come and go with the frequency of phone calls, or of the phone calls we don’t make nowadays.

Your parents still use the phone, as do their friends of that generation. When the phone rings, your father shouts, not at your mother but at the space around her, “Phone! Phone! Quick! Get the phone!”

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