Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Literary Etiquette: Providing for Your Reading Guests

Emily Post's Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage, was first published in 1922 by Funk & Wagnalls. And among the myriad of graces which she taught thoughtful American hostesses, there was this dutiful exhortation to provide for the needs of one's guests who, invariably in that era, would have been readers in need of light literature:

There must of course be a night light at the head of the bed. Not just a decorative glow-worm effect, but a 40 Watt light with an adjustable shade that is really good to lie in bed and read by.

And always there should be books—chosen more to divert than to strain the reader's attention. The sort of selection appropriate for a guest room might best comprise two or three books of the moment, a light novel, or a mystery novel, a book of essays, or poetry, another of short stories, and a few of the best magazines.

Better yet, books ought to be chosen particularly, for even though one may not guess accurately the tastes of another, one can at least guess whether the visitor is likely to prefer transcendental philosophy or detective stories, and provide accordingly.