Some time ago, probably eight or nine years ago, a chunk of my library – all of fiction, my shelves on philosophy, psychology, aesthetics and photography – were shipped off to a warehouse in Bedford. Each month, I have dutifully paid the storage charge. Last night, I discovered that the warehouse had been burned down. Everything is lost. All forty boxes of books. I spent the night making a mental inventory of what has gone: the complete set of Dickens which I bought from the bookshop in Hobson Street; a complete set of Jane Austen from Heywood Hill; much sadder than those which are easily replaceable was my set of the early novels by A.N. Wilson, including a well thumbed copy of The sweets of Pimlico (it would have been worth more if it was mint); and books by my two contemporaries who became novelists, Candia McWilliam and William Rivière. It’s not the financial loss I care about, but the sentimental associations: the books I read as a teenager; the copy of Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady. I have been a negligent reader of fiction as an adult, but it didn’t mean I didn’t care. It feels like a lobotomy, the memory of an old part of my life, including all those catalogues of photography exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery and my copy of Michael Podro’s The Manifold in Perception. All gone.