One of the readers of my last Tiny Letter emailed with a question she thought I might answer in my next. She gave me a reason to write another Tiny Letter. Perhaps others will do the same.
Before I answer the question, I will say that the idea of a question for the blogger reminds me of how the musician Nick Cave writes his blog The Red Hand Files.
Each of his blogs is an answer to a reader question. In the most recent, a New Zealander asks: 'Do you ever look back at your anthology and wish you had been more overtly politically outspoken?’ In the previous one, there is this from the UK: 'Would you consider compiling a list of 40 books you love?’
The question about books had me thinking about the bookshelves in the front room of my house, in a way that answers my friend's question.
As I get older, I am becoming aware that each book on my shelves is in some way a memorial to a person or moment in my life. I think this was always the case, but now it's a thing I dwell on.
I sometimes reposition a book to give it greater or less prominence. Authors or subjects I feel warmly about get pride of place. Those at the other end of the spectrum are relegated to a less desirable spot.
There is one particular book that also has its spine reversed, to hide the title and author's name from view. Its author is my former brother in law, whose actions caused significant suffering to members of my family.
Why didn't I just toss the book in the bin?
My answer to that is also the answer to my friend's question, which incidentally was: 'I would be interested in your views re statue-toppling’.
It is that I want to avoid erasing all knowledge of people's misdeeds from my consciousness, because it amounts to a denial of history.
In other words, it's best to preserve some memory of the anti-hero. Future generations need to know about bad deeds as well as good deeds.
Two years ago I visited the town of Stalin's birth in the Republic of Georgia. I was impressed that the locals refrained from toppling his statue when he fell from grace, or when they were celebrating Georgia's regaining independence from the Soviet Union. They simply moved it to a less prominent position.
My opposition to erasing the memory of anti-heroes also applies to place names. I have been following calls to rename Faithfull Street in Nick Cave's north-east Victorian home town of Wangaratta. It was named after a pastoralist who was involved in Aboriginal massacres in the 19th century.
Rather than removing Faithfull's name completely, I would prefer to see some kind of creative reversal of his honouring, such as renaming it Faithless Street.
What to do about Faithfull Street could be a question to put to Nick Cave.