Book ‘Em!

The home library as theatre. Of course. The Wall Street Journal tells about the latest in designer rooms: your library. Such  a move reflects the ambivalent approach to books and reading generally. As the article makes clear, these are generally not libraries assembled from personal shopping, but bought by the foot. (Quick! give me something in white Venetian vellum! Jane Austen in pink! matching covers!)

Not surprising, the typical customer is “the 35- to 55-year-old hedge fund manager, Hollywood mogul or technology executive.” Of course. Books have always had their place as aesthetic objects and even as decoration.  Like other aspects of conspicuous consumption, these new rooms function as simply one more signifier of success, and to a lesser extent who one wants to hang with.

Such rooms are oddly lonely. The library — the collection of books on the far wall and flowing over my file cabinet– represents a set of conversations, voices. It is not their looks, but the words inside, the potential to spark something new, the recollection of something already (well) said. They hold and are held, not as information but as companions.

And at the end of the day? Well they  do it for the kids “I hear a lot that homeowners want their children to be familiar with the great authors,” says one book dealer. Osmosis, perhaps, but only if you open them. If these children of privilege are like any other, likely as not they will be pulling down the books for the cool images (I couldn’t get enough of the Time-Life WWII books, myself), or the sexy parts, or for that matter something completely random. You open a book, and find that some one else, some where else, some how knoew what your were thinking and dreaming.

Works every time.


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