December 9, 2012

If I were a rich man ...

I think I'd want a private library like George Lucas's at Skywalker Ranch in Marin County. It appears to be modeled after the 1938 library at Chateau de Groussay, but with warmer colors and a 40' diameter stained glass dome. It's amazing what a 40' stained glass dome can do to spruce up any room. You should try it the next time you're redecorating.

You can browse through Truly Grand Home Libraries here. Interestingly, there are almost no pictures available on the Internet of the library that Bill Gates built his librarian mother.

The two guys on the list who definitely use their huge personal libraries, Larry McMurtry and Umberto Eco, go for the Ikea white pressed wood shelf look. You can't afford a George Lucas-style library from selling books, even as many as McMurtry and Eco have.

71 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting.

Of course, the only point of having a library is for the books, and for actually reading the books, rather than using them as display objects. So rationally, it makes no difference if you store yor books in a well ordered well catalogued warehouse - and take them away to read at leisure in the lounge - than in a formal library.
Just out of interest I wonder exactly which books George Lucas owns and why.
As a committed bibliophile, I've made most of my best discoveries (books on all sorts of subjects) at various little run down second hand and thrift shops, over the years. Of course Amazon has changed all that. Nut, particularly with non-fiction, the pleasure in buying a book largely comes with the initial browsing in the shop and seeing if the book arouses interest and captures imagination, quality of research, explanation, originality, authorship etc. The biggest, best library in the world cannot compensate for actually discovering material you like and want.

Anonymous said...

Would you rather have your own golf course or library?

Aaron Gross said...

If I were a rich man...I think I'd want a private library like George Lucas's at Skywalker Ranch in Marin County.

Sheesh, how many Tom Wolfe books do you have, anyway?

Jefferson said...

If I were a rich man as in John Kerry and Mitt Romney level rich, I would buy 2 homes. 1 in Hawaii and 1 in North Dakota.

Torn and Frayed said...

Lucas' library looks like it's never used. I was more impressed by Eco's pile of books all over the place; my own "library" looks at lot like his. You know at first glance that the man reads a lot and that his library is actively being added to constantly.

By the way the stained glass dome at Lucas's place looks kitschy and nouveau riche. It's the kind of feature you would expect in an NFL star's home.

Anonymous said...

You could always buy a hard drive, buy kindle books, remove the DRM, and store them. You'd get more than 50k books on there, easy. (lol)

At your age, you've got to start thinking in terms of the number of books you'd be able to read before you eventually expire, if you read as many books as you are able to every single day. At a book a day, it's certainly less than 50k.

This really applies to anyone, now that the number of books and information in general is exponentially growing. Life is too short to read Malcolm Gladwell.

But there is certainly something beautiful about a library of books. I love the libraries that exist in computer games, especially RPGs. Wizard's towers with books upon books, and no one to interrupt. My idea of heaven.

Anonymous said...

I love this post!

You are providing me with my Sunday morning, thanks Steve!

desert lady said...

I used to practically live in libraries. In years past, since early childhood, I read far more than my peers. I read over 300 books when I was 12. Degrees in computer science, English and law. I even took a stab at writing a non-fiction book. Wrote it, too. Didn't try to publish it, however.

But I have not voluntarily read a book in years. The age of the book has passed. I watch videos now. And I make videos now--religious videos, prank videos, etc. Youtube is the library of today.

The book is to video as the horseless carriage is to the car.

Tom in VA said...

I'll bet Carlos Slim's private library is very impressive.

Anonymous said...

Geez... unless one inherits a library like that, I can't imagine someone having the time to enjoy such a luxury.

Baloo said...

At first glance, I thought that was 'Enry 'Iggins's library.

Thagomizer said...

Be careful what you wish for. Lucas' wife left him for the artist who made that stained glass dome. She also edited the first three star wars movies.

The real problem with the prequel movies is that George Lucas can't edit and won't admit it.

So that dome marks both the end of Lucas' marriage and the end of his ability to make good movies.

deconstructingleftism said...

He's rich enough to build a fancy library, but not rich enough to do what he wants with his land, or even use it in a reasonable way. The ultimate wealth- especially in the blue states- is political power, so it is no wonder billionaires spend so much money to obtain it.

Mangan said...

Amazing what rich men have to spend their money on in a world without polygamy.

Anonymous said...

I was about to say typical Asperger can better recognize the resemblances in inanimate objects than people. But then I compared the two pictures. Really I think you are just blind.

seamus said...

so many unproduced jar jar binks and howard the duck scripts

staffanspersonalityblog said...

As soon as I got my Kindle I realized how much I hate those bulky, cumbersome paper books. I still have some but I dream of getting rid of them altogether.

Looks nice though. Why can't offices look more like that?

Harry Baldwin said...

Just think, the wisdom of all those wonderful books, distilled in the mind of George Lucas, created Jar Jar Binks and "Red Tails."

Anonymous said...

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/12/the-insourcing-boom/309166/?single_page=true

Anonymous said...

I've heard that Michael Richards (Kramer) has a huge home library. 30,000 books or something like that.

Anonymous said...

The zillionaire home library can still make sense. Let's say the zillionaire collects old manuscripts and/or rare printed books.

Anonymous said...

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/12/the-data-vigilante/309172/

Anonymous said...

http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/13361?in=25:33&out=26:55

Anonymous said...

http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/1642

Anonymous said...

http://www.kansaspress.ku.edu/bautim.html

Anonymous said...

Or you could just buy a Nook and download all that stuff.

Anonymous said...

The busy guys that can afford to build libraries like this -- do they even read much?

I have a nice mahogany library on a much less grand scale -- and I've read every single book in it.

Sometimes I get a little depressed when I think about the fact that a Kindle would hold every single volume in there.

x said...

people who own their own private libraries probably haven't read even 1/4th of the books in them. i never understood the point except to be able to tell people you've got your own library.

Mr. Anon said...

"2/9/12 5:37 AM
Anonymous Thagomizer said...

The real problem with the prequel movies is that George Lucas can't edit and won't admit it."

He can neither direct nor write either, to judge by the awful performances, banal plot ideas, and wooden, adolescent dialog of every awful movie he's made since 1977.

Anonymous said...

"But I have not voluntarily read a book in years. The age of the book has passed. I watch videos now. And I make videos now--religious videos, prank videos, etc. Youtube is the library of today.

The book is to video as the horseless carriage is to the car."

I disagree. I can't stand to watch videos because they communicate information so slowly.

I can read the transcript of a six minute video in a few seconds.

FWG said...

I can't get into the e-readers. I have to have something physical in my hands. And nothing can replace the scent of a printed book. I'm the same way with music. I have few downloads but scour shops and the internet for cds.

gwood said...

"But I have not voluntarily read a book in years. The age of the book has passed."
A book is still the only way of expressing complex ideas.

Anonymous said...

Too bad that library didn't contain any books that would have explained to Lucas how to write even half decent dialogue for the Star Wars prequels.

Anon87 said...

OT: But what implications does this have for HBD? I'm suspicious of these results.

Another Way to Think about Learning

To answer this question, we have delivered fully loaded tablets to two villages in Ethiopia, one per child, with no instruction or instructional material whatsoever. The tablets come with a solar panel, because there is no electricity in these villages. They contain modestly curated games, books, cartoons, movies—just to see what the kids will play with and whether they can figure out how to use them. We then monitor each tablet remotely, in this case by swapping SIM cards weekly (through a process affectionately known as sneakernet).

Within minutes of arrival, the tablets were unboxed and turned on by the kids themselves. After the first week, on average, 47 apps were used per day. After week two, the kids were playing games to race each other in saying the ABCs.

Anonymous said...

Digitalizes movies but materializes books.

Anonymous said...

"The two guys on the list who definitely use their huge personal libraries, Larry McMurtry and Umberto Eco,"

If only they had a few brown faces in those books, Jose and Maria would have equally large personal libraries.

Steve Sailer said...

"Lucas' wife left him for the artist who made that stained glass dome."

Really?

Yeah, but he's still got his dome.

ray said...

there's nothing laudable about vast, conspicuous consumption

the glutting of the ego is not a virtue (except in a fallen and sick world)

publically admiring these spoiled-brats and their glutted wives encourages more selfishness and glut, while better men die in the streets

EVERYBODY LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! ME ME ME! I AM SO RICH, I MUST BE IMPORTANT!

ptooey, soul-less displays for a soul-less people, that love their chains

Anonymous said...

This hgtv segment shows Steven Pinker to be squarely in the McMurty and Eco camp.

http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=tV-wgmLi1rE&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DtV-wgmLi1rE

Anonymous said...

"I can't stand to watch videos because they communicate information so slowly."

"A book is still the only way of expressing complex ideas."


I agree with both of those sentiments. I definitely understand stuff faster while reading. A random example: a piece of software I use daily has a video manual and a text manual. I've only ever wanted to look at the text manual. It's so much faster to get useful info out of text. It's easier to go at your own pace. Glancing over the stuff you already know and rereading the difficult stuff feels so much more natural than skipping and rewinding in a video player. And yes, I'm pretty sure that I read non-challenging material much faster than people normally talk.

I've always felt the same way about university lectures. It felt easier for me to get info from textbooks. Lectures are all about employment for professors and profit for colleges. 99% of learning happens either through doing or through reading.

The sort of people who prefer to get their information in video form are most likely people with short attention spans. I don't think that there's much hope of this sort of people ever managing to learn much, through any medium. I'm guessing that what attracts these people to video presentations is the opportunity to notice the presenter's tone of voice, hair style, personality, fashion sense. If content cannot be understood, then those things would break up the resulting boredom. A person who understands the content in which he's interested is not bored.

Think of the apparent gap in IQ between the average Amazon commenter and the average YouTube commenter.

Dan Kurt said...

Libraries that I have dreamed about.
First find the book: Living With Books, Rita Reif. 1968. I bought my copy used during 1975 from the Strand Book Store in lower Manhattan--does the Strand still exist as it had during the 60s and 70s. My wife was from NYC and I loved to visit the Strand and browse then walk to Luchow's for a meal similar to what my grandmother served when I was a boy. I understand Luchow's is long gone as is the Jager House of Lexington at 85th Street--what a loss. I was last at the Strand only a few times in the 1980s after moving west?
High School: was a budding amateur astronomer and on occasion had access to Allegheny Observatory and was dazzled with the building's central library. Photo can be seen here [http://tinyurl.com/b2xrckl] which does not do it justice. There I read sections from volumes (If I am remembering correctly) of Proceedings of the Royal Society of London from the 18th Century and first half of the 19th Century. The articles were amazing and often funny in their naïveté. The sainted Dr. Nicholas Wagman, then (1950s and 60s) head of the observatory, gave free use of the 13" refractor to some amateurs and if observing there when the clouds rolled in the library was a warm place to await better skies.
The second library that impressed me deeply was the one briefly seen during the last episode of Jacob Bronowski's The Ascent of Man (1973). That library was a block of shelving, as if transported from a university library stacks, to the middle of his large living room which was overlooking the Pacific Ocean at La Jolla, California.
As I lived my life I always wanted to build a house with a large two story library or a "stacks" style one. I even wasted money with an architect to design a house with a central two story library. It never came to fruition as my wife, an Ivy Ph.D. (hard science), is not a bibliophile never would agree with my plans for books. As such my books are shelved at my home mainly in the basement and many in a storeroom at my business office along with several obsolete computers.

Dan Kurt

Truth said...

"I've heard that Michael Richards (Kramer) has a huge home library. 30,000 books or something like that."

I guess he hadn't gotten to "How to Win Friends and Influence People" yet.

Derek Brown said...

Truth what pasaages did you highlight in "How"?

Harry Baldwin said...

"Lucas' wife left him for the artist who made that stained glass dome."

Really?


Yes, interesting bio of Marcia Lucas here.

Excerpt:
"Marcia had since become a business partner for Lucas, and while he was away shooting Return of the Jedi in 1982, Marcia was overseeing the interior design of Skywalker Ranch as it underwent its final phases of construction, with a staff of twenty-five working under her. She gave the campus-like environment dark-green walls with burnished wood trim, antique desks and tables and a polished oak balcony overlooking the courtyard. 'I remember working at Sandler Films, sitting in a dark cubicle. I want every employee to have a decent place to work,' she said. The facility had a great library which was capped with an elaborate stained glass dome; a local artist named Tom Rodrigues was hired to create the elaborate piece, also acting as production manager of the stained glass studio on-site that created other garnishes for the facility. Somewhere in that time, Marcia fell in love with him.

"Given the state of the Lucases' marriage and the emotional state of Marcia, this is not surprising. Despite having finally adopted a baby, her marriage was in ruins, and Marcia seems to have been in a state of depression. Yet at the same time, she knew she had obligations to George and their daughter as well and stayed with George for the meanwhile. Marcia swore to me, though, that while she was attracted to Rodrigues and later married him, she never had a physical affair with him when she was still with George."

Matthew said...

"I can't get into the e-readers. I have to have something physical in my hands."

It took me awhile, but I'm getting used to them. The instant dictionary and the ability to highlight are invaluable.

Stick with a Kindle or Nook for a few weeks and you'll get used to it, too.

Anonymous said...

"I guess he hadn't gotten to "How to Win Friends and Influence People" yet."

At some point in his life Richards became friends with talented comedians Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld. These two were so impressed with his ability to induce the involuntary reflex of laughter in strangers (i.e. to influence people on one of the deepest levels imaginable) that they offered him a job that ended up earning him tens of millions of dollars, 3 prime-time Emmys and worldwide fame.

What have your people-influencing skills gotten you?

Anonymous said...

"I bought my copy used during 1975 from the Strand Book Store in lower Manhattan--does the Strand still exist as it had during the 60s and 70s."

There actually used to be 2 Strand bookstores in Lower Manhattan - one in Greenwich Village, a few blocks south of Union Square, and another on Fulton St., on the way to South Street Seaport. Unfortunately this second Strand closed several years ago. The Greenwich Village Strand was open the last time I visited, which was a few months ago.

Norville Rogers said...

TV writer Tom Fontana actually lives in a former beaux-arts NYPL building. I think the Times does a feature on this whenever's there's a slow news week

slumber_j said...

I once had dinner at the house of some historians in Seville. One floor there was dedicated to their vast library--in the movable compact stacks that one otherwise finds in the bowels of university libraries. I thought that was really cool.

Thursday said...

Tyler Cowen has made the point that while exteriors of new buildings tend to be pretty shitty, interiors are getting a lot better. Modernism (and post-modernism) on the outside, classic styles on the inside.

Steve Sailer said...

The L.A. Cathedral across the freeway from the Japanese Robot high school is actually nice on the inside.

Thursday said...

Peter Bogdanovich is another talented director who hasn't done a damn thing worth talking about since leaving his talented first wife to take up with a series of Hollywood hotties starting with Cybill Shepherd. His best movie The Last Picture Show was heavily influenced by his first wife, who actually grew up in a setting similar to the film.

Anonymous said...

I'm not familiar enough with Cowen to know his context there, but isn't there a pretty obvious explanation at hand for such "Bowling Alone" interior vs. exterior architecture?

Anonymous said...

Thing at the back of my mind while reading about Marcia Lucas was Francis Ford Coppola's seeming good fortune in his shotgun marriage to a fellow film geek from Orange County whom he'd met less than a year earlier and who (eventually) had to put up with some pretty crazy escapades over in the Philippines while dutifully watching over his young children

potato chip lover said...

I remember the distinct smell (balsam firs in late spring snow with early spring northern blossoming trees?) that some genius at Ballantine (Tolkien's U.S. paperback publisher, I think)made sure inhered in every paperback copy of The Lord of the Rings until the mid 80s or mid 90s. Sadly, any info on this is unfindable by me on the internet (although a similar smell was added to the first printings of a Star Trek apocalyptic triloy by D. Mack earlier this year) Also, Hemingway paperback novels used to smell of freshly cut wheat and whiskey and Wodehouse novels had a cocktail/perfume/cologne/Turkish tobacco/party/steam engine smell.

Jason Sylvester said...

That's a lot of fantastic looking private libraries, but I think if I ever came into some windfall of Lucas-like wealth I'd simply buy Recycled Books and its entire inventory outright, and just live in Baja Oklahoma during the fall & winter.

Good observation about the two libraries that almost certainly get used, as opposed to the trophy libraries. Eco and McCurtry's libraries just look like they reek of that rich-paper smell of books that have had their spines cracked at least once, while Lucas's looks like an automated librarian would chime "Quiet, please..." when some decibel-detection gadget picked up the sound of you talking a little too loudly or detected your tennis shoes squeaking across that fine wooden floor. Probably in a fussy C-3PO voice, to boot.

On the other hand, a guy who just got through having to convert the crawl space above the tornado shelter in his garage into makeshift, overflow book-space probably shouldn't crack on Lucas's library too hard: he's got my modest version of same beat hands down. But that dome still doesn't do much for me.

Anonymous said...

Baloo hit the nail on the head. This is almost identical to the "My Fair Lady" set.

Truth said...

"What have your people-influencing skills gotten you?"

An extra 20 digits on your blood pressure, and 5 less years on your life.

Anonymous said...

Kindle is fine if you're the type who likes to read Malcolm Gladwell, David Sedaris, or other popular writers, but if you've got any sort of serious specialized reading interests then there's probably tons of old books you want to read that aren't on Kindle, aren't on any of the book piracy sites, and in many cases probably aren't even in your local university library. Owning a lot of physical books is the only way to go.

wren said...

In order to motivate yourself to start a think tank (on the cliffs at Torrey Pines) perhaps you can concentrate on what a great library it could have (and to impress donors).

Affecting US policy and by extension, world history could be secondary.

DYork said...

Suzzallo Library at the University of Washington

Or you could just live near big libraries and use them. It's like living near large pieces of public land. Don't need to buy and pay taxes on the land.

Suzzallo Library looks impressive as architecture but maybe not in actual books.

Mr. Anon said...

"Truth said...

I guess he hadn't gotten to "How to Win Friends and Influence People" yet."

All he did was piss off some black heckler by saying something that any number of white people in the audience were probably already thinking. But, my God, talking to black people like they talk to each other?! Unthinkable! Unheard of!

FredR said...

"but if you've got any sort of serious specialized reading interests then there's probably tons of old books you want to read that aren't on Kindle, aren't on any of the book piracy sites, and in many cases probably aren't even in your local university library. Owning a lot of physical books is the only way to go."

All of those old books are in the public domain, and most have been uploaded to google books, gutenberg.com, archive.org, etc. Granted, usually they haven't been formatted for kindle (gutenberg does the best job with that), but you can read pdfs on the kindle anyway, it's only a little more inconvenient. Getting a kindle has vastly increased my consumption of old books.

Anonymous said...

{whispers} It might be heretical but gutenberg.org let's you have out of copyright works at your convienence on HD, Kindle or other such device. That makes it your library.{/whispers}

The point of having such a large library is that others might use it.

Sheila said...

Oh, the envy that picture inspires. I still miss the old card catalogue, and then going through the darkened stacks on the various mezzanine levels in my college library, and finding all sorts of unexpected treasures as I searched the shelves. My late father used to take me through the Library of Congress stacks when I was young. I have an iPad (a gift I did not request) with a kindle app, and I use it for modern, forgettable reading. I also have overstocked bookcases and, given the finances and space, would have a whole lot more. I loved roaming the old used bookstores (in college, when visiting Chicago once, when studying in the UK). The British Library's reading room isn't too shabby, either.

Technology has its uses, and I can research things online just fine, but that thrill of the serendipitous find just isn't there. Of course, I have a never finished MA in Bibliography and Textual Criticism (and another in International Relations), so I'm a thorough anachronism in any event.

Matthew said...

"Kindle is fine if you're the type who likes to read Malcolm Gladwell, David Sedaris, or other popular writers, but if you've got any sort of serious specialized reading interests then there's probably tons of old books you want to read that aren't on Kindle."

Well, many of the really old books are available on Kindle for free. Of course you aren't restricted to using the Kindle when the book you want isn't available for it, but it's a huge time saver and trouble saver when you can. I find it hard to imagine any really devoted reader getting by these days without one.

David said...

I used to visit Scribner's in midtown Manhattan just to climb on the ladder (1980s). (Ok, so I bought a couple books there too.)

Libraries have a lot of strange lore associated with them. NYU's library is 12 stories of interior balconies all the way down to a floor with a dizzying black & white pattern on it. The whispers were of multiple suicides. Kids by the dozen on 12 would take one look at that floor and... Another whisper had it that the library had sought preventative measures in the Christian cross: the railings (close-set upright metal pickets) were stamped in a cross-like pattern. "If anyone knowingly jumps over THAT," a Catholic student told me smugly, and left the sentence hanging in the air.

About 8 years ago in Jacksonville, FL, $50 million was spent on erecting a giant multi-story library downtown. I often visited when it was brand-new. What struck me was the waste of space: large holdings held in an even larger vastness, with the marble lobby on every floor dominating the little side rooms where they kept the stacks. Also, it must be said, all the media and exhibit rooms seemed to host wall-to-wall Holocaust exhibits non-stop. One especially awful one consisted of large, innumerable crayon doodles made by local crackers attending public elementary schools; their doodles authoritatively depicted scenes in gas chambers and the crying faces of survivors. Another thing that struck me was the high number of young poor black boys running through the library; their mothers obviously brought them there from North Jacksonville. I moved out of the city before I could make more notes.

Kindle vs. paper: printing I can understand, circuitry I cannot. So I feel closer to a book. It feels real. I am totally in charge of the object conceptually and physically. A Kindle or Nook, not so much; in fact it imposes its protocol and rules on me, instead of the reverse. Oh sure I can twiddle the knobs but that's not the same thing.

Anonymous said...

As the recent festivities in the U.K. taught us, your library is the one room that won't be looted. Your Nook or Kindle can be mistaken for a cell phone putting your life in danger.

Mr. Anon said...

"DYork said...

Suzzallo Library looks impressive as architecture but maybe not in actual books."

Most of the books are in a 1960s-modernist addition hidden behind the cathedral.

Anonymous said...

I understand the aesthetic superiority of printed books to a degree, but give the circuits their due.

The Great Joe Sobran had to liquidate his library of several thousand books when he was forced to move to a more humble dwelling. If his stacks were neatly shelved on an Amazon server, he could have kept them all and the cost of moving them would have been the 70 bucks for a kindle. You can't bring your library to the hospital or nursing home.

Don't discount the benefits of ebooks. You can read them on your phone while waiting on the line at the supermarket instead of thumbing through Star magazine. The font can be made larger so that your collection can be converted to large print as you age. There are the innumerable obvious benefits, like keeping a million book library on your smart phone. I'm not sure if you can hand down books. I bet you could get away with it as long as you pass along your passwords.

You have to put some trust in guys like Jeff Bezos - he is an intellectual and Amazon is affiliated with the The Long Now Foundation in its efforts to preserve information.

I ask all ebooks detractors to at least yearly read one ebook if only to mark the advancement in the technology. Let's do it on Justin Knapp Day.

David said...

Hadn't thought of it that way, Anon. at 12/11/12 2:50 AM.

I think you're right.