Well, here’s a startling new home trend: people are now wanting libraries in their domiciles.
You might think this is counter-intuitive, being that reading these days increasingly does not involve printed matter. But that shows what you know.
According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, which I, um, read online:
These rooms are as much aesthetic set pieces and public displays of intelligence as they are quiet spaces to reflect and retreat.
In other words, people who have elaborate home libraries aren’t necessarily well-read, they just want you to think they are. Put another way, it means you can be rich and stupid, as quite a few celebrities remind us every day, often via Twitter. Or arrest reports.
My wife Barbara and I created a real reading room in our old condo townhouse as soon as the rabbit died, and it was my favorite room in the house, a place where I could get away from it all and just relax with a good book and a glass of wine and soft music on the stereo, and you probably want me to back up just a little to explain the bit about the rabbit dying, which had nothing to do with Barbara getting pregnant.
You see, our daughter Casey brought a rabbit home from school one day. It didn’t follow her home like Mary’s lamb, and it wasn’t nearly as useful. It basically sat in its cage in Casey’s playroom, making weird, scary faces, and stinking the place up.
It did this for about 15 years–far longer than a domestic rabbit is supposed to live, especially one with a genetic disorder that prevents it from consuming food unless it is brought to a vet once a month to have its front tooth filed down.
As soon as it died, and the smell faded a little, we bought three floor-to-ceiling bookcases, a throne-sized man-chair, and a special Verilux® reading lamp to “provide true colors and enhance the clarity and contrast of reading materials.” Yeah, well, sure.
I loved that den, even though Barbara made me put a TV in there because she has a genetic disorder that prevents her from being in any room for more than three minutes without a TV being on. She is also unable to watch TV for more than three minutes without also doing something else, which drives me crazy, especially if we’re watching something really dramatic, or a comedy with sight gags that she misses because she’s playing Bejeweled on her iPad and, really, since she doesn’t actually watch the screen anyway, she would have gotten along great in the 1930’s listening to Fibber McGee and Molly on the radio while reading her emails, except, you know, for that last part.
Where was I?
Oh, right, the reading room. So we recreated the den in the new house, even though it took about three hours for the moving guys to get my throne-sized man-chair through the doorway of the room we had designated to be the reading room/guest room. (Barbara was rooting against them; she hates that chair with the fervor she once reserved for hating the rabbit.) And, yes, there is a guest bed in there, but no TV. Barbara actually has a hard time remembering that the room exists. Really. I’ll say to her, “I’ll be in the den reading,” and she’ll say, “The what?”
That’s because she never goes in there to read because there’s no TV.
And it’s a small room, and only one wall is book-lined, but at least it’s lined with books that we’ve actually read.
This radical idea of reading the books in a home library is, evidently, not part of the reading room trend. Instead, people have been hiring firms like Juniper Books of Colorado to “assemble custom book collections and decorative book solutions.”
The owner, Thatcher Wine (if that doesn’t sound like the name of someone who assembles decorative book solutions for a living, I don’t know what does), is quoted in the Wall Street Journal article:
“Part of the desire [to create libraries] is for people to look smart and well-read….”
The key work being “look.” People don’t want to actually be well-read, which would take way too much effort. To that end, Juniper and other companies like it (and you’d be shocked at how many there are) sell books by the linear foot. So I guess you call them up and say, “Can I have three feet of books, please, and hold the Jane Austen.”
Frighteningly, there are very exact specifications for these libraries. A New York decorator, Bunny Williams, is quoted as saying, “For every 24 inches of shelving, you need 20 books.”
If you aren’t already reluctant to have your book collection assembled by an interior decorator, especially one who allots precisely 1.2 inches for each book, having it assembled by someone named Bunny should definitely give you pause. (And how did I get back to rabbits again?)
When I was growing up, my mother had a small decorative bookcase in the living room. It was interesting in that it was only about three inches deep, which is not normally enough depth to hold a book. Looking at it, you had the uncomfortable impression that the volumes were halfway into the wall…until you realized that you were looking at only the spines, chopped off from the actual pages, and glued onto the shelves.
Maybe that soured me for life on the use of books for decorative purposes.
Our shelves have double and triple stacks of books, partially because I refuse to throw a book away, even if I didn’t particularly like it. I wish I had one of those elaborate libraries with spiral staircases and rolling ladders to reach the high shelves, and two identical leather chairs with a small table between them to hold snifters of brandy even though I’d only put Diet Coke on it, and maybe a few literarily-related knick-knacks like Mark Twain’s pen, or Stephen King’s Halloween mask, or J.K. Rowling’s personal wand, or that painting from The Da Vinci Code, what was it again?, oh, yeah, The Last Supper.
I’d also need one of those fake books that opens a hidden door to my secret lair, where I would perform my experiments and hoard my gold. Or maybe it could just be a bathroom.
At the very least, we need more bookshelves because we’re running out of space for books. And since our den has already run out of space for bookshelves, we’ll need a different room to be our library.
So we find ourselves once again waiting for a room to be evacuated, although not by a rabbit.
But no rush, Casey. I’ll read slowly.
See you soon.