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What We Keep

Books as decoration

Everyone has their guilty pleasure. Well, if you don’t, you should have. Mine is interior decorating magazines, particularly of the “what you can make with that thing you found at the flea market” variety. It’s cheaper than shoes and it keeps me off the streets, although my husband runs the risk of another fine idea about converting the kitchen window seat to a storage cupboard. Lately though, being a bookish type person, I feel the need to express Deep Disapproval over the idea of using books as decoration. Choosing and shelving them by their jacket color, for instance. Or shelving them with the spines facing in so “the marvelous texture of the pages can show.” Shelving books spine inward or by color makes a statement that is probably not the statement the designer is aiming for. This statement says, “You are an idiot who does not read books. Otherwise you would shelve them so you could find what you are looking for.”

I’m not against using books that are not particularly rare or valuable to make art with. My toaster lizard (see photo) sits on two Reader’s Digest volumes and a book by Dan Quayle. But my other gripe with books as decoration, as long as I am on my soapbox, is taking apart old children’s books that are in perfectly good shape. As someone who makes her living with children’s books, the fact that someone would rather decorate a lampshade with pages from Alice in Wonderland than read it makes me suspect that person was deprived of suitable reading in her own youth and this is the tragic result. Her children will grow up obsessed with sticking clichés on their walls with craft shop lettering instead of what they ought to be obsessed with, which is when is the next book in Ian MacDonald’s Planesrunner series coming out?

Stacking tchochkes on books to make “tablescapes” falls in the same general category. Yes, you can get at the book if you actually want to read it, but you can’t get at your bedside table because it is artfully draped with a scrap of old lace, two spineless molting books with marvelous texture, the spigot from an outdoor faucet, and a rusty baking soda can from 1935.

And now I have to go read Romantic Homes, which just arrived today, so I can disapprove of something else and find that piece on pressing flowers. I have some Queen Anne’s Lace and the OED all ready.
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