Stairway To the Wall

images.jpgAfter the death of William Wirt Winchester, his wife Sarah inherited vast amounts of money including a sizable interest in her deceased husband’s firearms company. She also received a spiritualist warning that as long as the construction on the family palace in San Jose continued, she would escape death, possibly from the ghosts of those killed by Winchester repeating riles.

I first heard of the Winchester House in grade school when a student shared the story about stairways to the ceiling and doors in the walls with no rooms on the other side. Several years later on a family trip to San Francisco we drove past the house but didn’t take the tour. Years after that I saw the house again, standing in the midst of typical suburban sprawl: strip malls, multi-cinemas, car dealerships.

Old Sarah didn’t even last out the 1920s.

I was musing earlier that I seem to be flexing my reading muscles, almost as if I believed books could fend of impending doom (and Covid-19) as long as I kept reading. I noticed that my reading lists were apparently trying to catch up on all those titles I have always intended to read but never got around to: Dickens, Zola, Oates, Rutherfurd, Powys, Proust, James, Cooper, Radcliffe, Spillane, Burney, and on and on.

Could this be true?

Here is my reading pool for April:

  1. The Canterbury Tales: A Retelling — Peter Ackroyd
  2. Other People — Martin Amis
  3. The Man Who Walked Through Walls — Marcel Ayme
  4. The Giant Rat of Sumatra — Richard L. Boyer
  5. Suggested Reading — Dave Connis
  6. Hard Case Crime: Nobody’s Angel — Jack Clark
  7. Our Mutual Friend — Charles Dickens
  8. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius — Dave Eggers
  9. The Third Rainbow Girl — Emma Copley Eisenberg
  10. Judgment Day — James T. Farrell
  11. images-1Black Rain — Masuji Ibuse
  12. The Draining Lake — Arnaldur Indridson
  13. Dairy Queen Days: A Novel — Robert Inman
  14. Ice Station Zebra — Alistair MacLean
  15. Flynn’s World — Gregory Mcdonald
  16. Nymphomation — Jeff Noon
  17. The Book of Disquiet — Fernando Pessoa
  18. When She Was Good — Philip Roth
  19. Loitering With Intent — Muriel Spark
  20. Acceptance: A Novel — Jeff VanderMeer

Does it seem desperate? Well, over half of the titles came from my must-read-urgently-someday list and the full list was actually almost three times as long and I artificially arranged the final list to appear more in control. Besides, I’m on lock-down here in my little rooms: what else have I got to do?


2 thoughts on “Stairway To the Wall

  1. My wife and I visited the Winchester House when we were traveling through California, several years ago. It was quite interesting. Without libraries and bookstores being open, and since I haven’t taken the plunge into e-readers, I am using the Quarantine time to delve into the large library of unread books (about 5 bookcase full) of books within my house. I was definitely prepared, bookwise.


    1. I never did get the tour although I did eventually gawk at the riches of that little ol’ campsite San Simeon (AKA Hurst Castle). Note that I also have hundreds of books adorning my bookshelves. Unfortunately my eyes make most reading difficult without a great big magnifying glass. Think of all those wonderful Penguin Classics just gathering dust … but thank goodness for digital readers.


What are your thoughts on this?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s