Weekend Update (Sunday Edition):


Looking through a catalogue this afternoon, in search of storage solutions to my CD/DVD situation, I was amused to espy, on the lower shelf of a bedside table, in a sunny, colorful, and quite unstudious room, a harmonious stack of seven pistachio-jacketed Loeb Classics. Greek, in other words; not Latin (which would be raspberry). 

The picture is funny and not funny at the same time. It’s not funny because only one customer in umpteen thousands will appreciate how preposterous it would be (the funny part) to keep seven Loeb classics in an insouciant pile at one’s bedside. Two might be impressive — the Iliad, or the Odyssey. Even four would not be entirely grotesque (Pausanias?). But seven — seven has got to be Plutarch. The rule for readers of Plutarch in the Twenty-First Century is that perusing more than one volume must take place at a library table, not in bed. You can just hear the lucky spouse: “Okay, they’re green! They’re effing lovely! Now turn out the light!”

It’s possible that even the photo shoot’s designer wasn’t in on the joke. “I found this gorgeous color on a shelf at the Union League Club, when a client took me to lunch. They’re so old!” Wonderfully eliding the books’ arguable age with the indisputable antiquity of their contents. They’re so old, they didn’t even have books back then!

My favorite catalogue these days is Levenger’s collection of “Tools For Serious Readers.” Readers’ porn, I call it. I do not exaggerate! Levenger promises, literally, to make writing into an erotic experience. A page of fancy pens is headed: “Sublime designs to spark your creativity.” How about this:

Prepare to be more productive. Know what scholars and scribes have known for two thousand years when you experience for yourself how inclined work surfaces can help you read, write and work more productively…

Scholars and scribes! Two thousand years! We all know what “know” means, especially in two thousand year-old contexts! Even better:

“And that has made all the difference.” This line, the denouement of Robert Frost’s celebrated poem “The Road Not Taken,” is an appropriate introduction to the Morgan Note Card Traveler. Its three lengthwise pockets offer room to tuck inside your to-dos, cards, schedules, photos and brainstorming notes. At back is a display stand, which folds flat via hidden magnets…

All the hidden magnets in the world are not going to inspire another poem as pithy and beloved as Frost’s.

But that’s not the gravamen of my complaint. I don’t want my money back because my “L-Tech writing instrument” — although it did indeed allow me to “carve words with precision” — didn’t inspire me to pen the long-awaited sequel to The Great Gatsby. No! I did pen the sequel to The Great Gatsby, and it’s terrific; I’ve got it right here! But, you know what? I didn’t even realize that I was writing with the L-Tech. I was completely unconscious of the reams of “top quality pads for professionals” that I covered with Scribner-worthy prose! I might just as well have used foolscap!

What’s the point of bundling my work in a Circa Master Folio if I don’t look out the window when I’m working, much less hope that I’ll “expand my horizons”? Where’s that tingle of writing masterpieces with edgy equipment? Here I went to all this trouble to do justice to Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, and I never noticed that the wife had replaced my door-on-sawhorses arrangement with a Rumination Station!

I never knew!

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