"One's collection comes to symbolize the contents of one's mind."

— Updike, John (1932-2009)

Place of Publication
New York
Alfred A. Knopf
"One's collection comes to symbolize the contents of one's mind."
Metaphor in Context
The book as souvenir. One's collection comes to symbolize the contents of one's mind. My mother's college texts, I remember, sat untouched in a corner of our country bookcase, radiating the glories of Renaissance poetry and Greek drama while being slowly hollowed by silverfish. The bulk of my own college books are still with me, rarely consulted but always there, reminders of moments, of stages, in a pilgrimage, while the decades since add their own drifts and strata of volumes read or half read or intended to be read. Books preserve, daintily, the redolence of their first reading--this beach, that apartment, that attack of croup, this flight to Indonesia. Without their physical evidence my life would be more phantasmal, as is, they are stacked around me, towering even over my head, as not only an extension into my past, sinking their foundations securely down to my accreted jejune marginal commments and reaching up into clouds of noble intention--books waiting to be read, as tempting as grapes unharvested and musky, years of dust to be blown off in a second of sudden plucking, their moment to be seized and absorbed come triumphantly round at last. Such books constitute a pledge of an infinite future, just as their brother books, already read but mostly forgotten, form an infinite resource of potential rereading, of new angles and insights on terrain where our footprints have all but vanished. Books externalize our brains, and turn our homes into thinking bodies.
(p. 69)
Reading Kathleen Verduin, "Imprinting Mortality: Updike's Anxiety and the Culture of Books" MLQ 71:2 (September 2010).
John Updike. "A Case for Books" in Due Considerations: Essays and Criticism (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007), p. 69. First appeared as "Books Unbound, Life Unraveled" in New York Times op-ed pages, June 18, 2000.
Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.