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Seconding the Case for ‘Bland and Boring Bookshelves’

 

I recently went to a party in a trendy studio apartment, and for a moment was horrified by the bookshelf I glimpsed from the corner of my eye along a darkened wall of the living room. I say for a moment because once my eyes adjusted I realized my hosts had simply removed the dust jackets from their predominantly hardcover collection of books; and although the bookshelves were scattered with other decorative items and the books seemed to arranged with some measure of restraint and foresight that has never accompanied me to a bookstore, rather than jammed into every available space as mine tend to become, the shelves weren’t overwhelmed with the need to be a curated, controlled display.  While there were some minor shortcomings to the these bookshelves (they needed to be at least 35 times their size)  it certainly wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

I have to agree with Cathy over at Kittling:Books in that too many interior decorators and the HGTV-fueled need for staging our living space push the trend of messing around with the heart and soul of any house. To many of them, bookshelves are bland and boring, and they’re constantly trying show off how original they are by forcing out ideas intended to spice them up.

books-2007660_1920The books will be displayed spine-in or covered in plain white covers, or the books are shelves by color, fading down the rainbow along their floor to ceiling shelves dotted with Pop figures and other decoration meant to show how trendy and tied into pop culture the owner is, or they shove furniture right up against the shelves, blocking the books that would be within easiest reach to one sitting or lounging on the floor as the spend an afternoon digging for the perfect read, or hang framed prints from the shelves and supports, blocking the books as the frame jobs insist on a matte that thinks it can transform a 4×6 snapshot  into a 32×48 art exhibit.

It’s become clear that many interior designers are not readers and know little about the proper way to showcase books.  For any reader or librarian, bookseller or human with a functional brain, there’s one way to showcase books. It’s called shelving them, and doing so in the way god intended: alphabetically by the author’s last name. That’s it.

library-849797_1920There’s no reason to try and reinvent the wheel or overcharge your client to prove just how creative and unique you are by hiding or arranging your books as if they’re some modern art exhibit. The books are the art, not the shelf they’re on. The titles are important, not the decorations you pile on the shelves around them. Let those titles speak for themselves and speak for you, for your interests and insecurities and guilty pleasures.

Your books should chart your interests and life, and there should be a story behind every book you own and why you’ve hung onto it. The books can speak for themselves, in alphabetical order. They don’t need anyone’s help to tell their story or yours.

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To Be Read | Sam Shepard’s ‘Spy of the First Person’

Reading the description for Sam Shepard’s posthumous short novel, “Spy of the First Person”, I’m immediately reminded of Paul Harding’s ‘Tinkers’, and C.S. Richardson’s ‘The End of the Alphabet’. Both novels feature main characters faced with their impending death, and forced to search their pasts and consider their limited futures for meaning and validation. Each goes about it in completely different yet equally beautiful ways and if you’ve read and enjoyed Shepard’s final book, I’d recommend checking both of those novels out.

How do you share the experience of dying? Of slowly losing control, not simply of your life, but of your body itself, and carry on knowing the end is bearing down on you? How does that change a person?

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From the Publisher:

“The final work from the Pulitzer Prize–winning writer, actor, and musician, drawn from his transformative last days

In searing, beautiful prose, Sam Shepard’s extraordinary narrative leaps off the page with its immediacy and power. It tells in a brilliant braid of voices the story of an unnamed narrator who traces, before our rapt eyes, his memories of work, adventure, and travel as he undergoes medical tests and treatments for a condition that is rendering him more and more dependent on the loved ones who are caring for him. The narrator’s memories and preoccupations often echo those of our current moment—for here are stories of immigration and community, inclusion and exclusion, suspicion and trust. But at the book’s core, and his, is family—his relationships with those he loved, and with the natural world around him. Vivid, haunting, and deeply moving, Spy of the First Person takes us from the sculpted gardens of a renowned clinic in Arizona to the blue waters surrounding Alcatraz, from a New Mexico border town to a condemned building on New York City’s Avenue C. It is an unflinching expression of the vulnerabilities that make us human—and an unbound celebration of family and life.”

The Obama Inheritance

The Obama Inheritance: Fifteen Stories of Conspiracy Noir by Gary PhillipsI heard about this crazy book at the tail end of an episode of NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’ and I almost missed out on it, since I thought it was going to be all ads loaded up at the end of the podcast.

The bulk of the episode featured journalist Anne Applebaum; a conversation about her new book “Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine” on Stalin’s forced collectivization and the resulting famine in Ukraine that killed millions and was intended to break the spirit of Ukrainian nationalism while strengthening the USSR.  Throughout this period Stalin killed, by some estimates, more people then the Holocaust, and it was largely ignored or hidden from the rest of the world, and effectively erased from history until the fall of the Soviet Union.

Once I finish “Red Famine”, I’ll probably have to pick up “The Obama Inheritance”, a collection of fifteen short stories that cover a variety of insane topics.  The story goes that each author was told to dive into the astounding number of and astoundingly stupid conspiracy theories centering around President Obama and his administration, and pick out their favorite one to go to town on.

I wish ‘Fresh Air’ had spent more time on this book what with the time traveling secret agents, Supreme Court judges who can clone themselves, kung fu androids out for justice, a race of ancient lizard people, and humans coexisting with dinosaurs.  This collection sounds bizarre, quirky, fantastic, outlandish and all the more ridiculous because there are probably more than a few Trump supporters and Fox News fans that will cite these stories as verifiable historical accounts.

I hope these end up attaining a Philip K. Dick meets Ishmael Reed rolled up with some Buckaroo Bonzai levels of entertainment.  In short, these stories sound pretty awesome and from just the few minutes ‘Fresh Air’ was able to spend teasing the collection.

Plus it’s short stories, and we all know that’s about I can handle right now. And I mean… lizard men.

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