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Posts Tagged ‘bookshelves’

Obstacle Course

January 16, 2015 | by

The perils of growing up surrounded by books.

books

Illustration: Mark Fearing

This month marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of The Threepenny Review. They’re celebrating with Table Talk from the Threepenny Review, a new book collecting a hundred essays from their Table Talk column—a casual, intellectually curious series first launched by Leonard Michaels in 1990, with subjects ranging from Emily Dickinson and rats to prominent holes in Kansas. This piece, by Javier Marías, appeared in their Winter 2011 issue.

Like all the other apartments I’ve ever lived in, the apartment in which I spent my childhood was full of books. However, the word full doesn’t really come near the truth; neither do the words crammed or crowded, because not only was every wall covered with shelves (each of which was packed with volumes from every imaginable century), but the books also sometimes served as rugs, tables, sofas, chairs, and even, almost, beds. I don’t mean that there was no furniture in the apartment and that we sat on piles of books or ate from other still taller piles—with a consequent disquieting sensation of constant instability—but that the rugs, tables, sofas, seats, and even beds were often buried beneath vast tomes: for example, the complete and very abundant works of the late-Renaissance philosopher Francisco Suárez. I remember those in particular because, on one occasion, I had to wrestle for hours with the philosophers Suárez and Condillac in order to make a large enough space on the floor to play with my toy soldiers. Bear in mind that my size at the time (I was seven or eight) didn’t really equip me for the easy removal of those large seventeenth- or eighteenth-century volumes obstructing my innocent games.

In fact, for myself and my three brothers, the house was one long obstacle course, almost two hundred yards long, the obstacles always taking the form of books. That is why, from an early age, I became used to negotiating the words of the great philosophers and writers, with the inevitable result that I have a deep-rooted lack of respect for anyone who writes, myself included. It still surprises me when I see how other people (especially politicians and commentators) kowtow to writers or else fight to appear in photos accompanied by some scribe or other, or when the state rushes to give succor to ailing, ruined poets, privileging them with a treatment that only heaps humiliation on equally ruined or ailing street cleaners, businessmen, waiters, lawyers, and cobblers. My scant respect for the trade to which I belong (from the most ancient of academicians to the most youthful of libelists) derives from a childhood home in which, as I have said, I grew used to mistreating and misusing almost all the seminal texts from the history of culture. Having too much respect for the kind of individuals who partially soured my childhood and invaded the territory occupied by my thrilling games of bottle-top soccer would seem to me masochistic in the extreme. Read More »

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Pricey Real Estate, Cool Bookshelves

October 24, 2012 | by

  • We love a cool bookshelves roundup.
  • Animal Farm, the movie: begin your dream-cast YouTube videos now, please.
  • New (well, unheard, anyway) audio clips of Flannery O’Connor.
  • Buy (or look at) the Mediterranean villa where Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald allegedly stayed and wrote. Whatever, it has its own discotheque.
  • How to write a novel in thirty days, should one have a furious gangster on one’s case or something. (Or should one wish to participate in NaNoWriMo.)

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    Beautiful Bookshelves, Rule Breaking, and More!

    May 3, 2012 | by

  • The Tehran International Book Fair cracks down on “harmful” titles.
  • “Poets break all the rules. When other writers take their photos outdoors, poets stay inside. They’re the only ones who wear hats or leather jackets with nothing underneath.”
  • Target will no longer be in the Kindle business. (A sentence that would have mystified our forebears.)
  • “The passive voice remains an important arrow in the rhetorical quiver. After all, it exists for a reason.”
  • A gallery of beautiful bookshelves.
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    Jane Mount and the Ideal Bookshelf

    June 4, 2010 | by

    Ideal-Bookshelf-Paris-Review

    What is on an ideal bookshelf?

    The books that made people who they are, that changed their lives.

    How long have you been painting bookshelves?

    Three years.

    Do you ever spot repeats?

    There’s a cookbook called The Silver Spoon—I’ve painted that silver spoon so many times! A Confederacy of Dunces, Catcher in the Rye, The Little Prince, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, A Wrinkle in Time, Bird by Bird.

    Do you ever find new reading while on the job?

    Totally. I just bought I Married Adventure by Osa Johnson. A friend had an early edition on his bookshelf, and it had this really cool black-and-white tiger-striped spine. I looked it up, and Johnson sounded fascinating. I don’t know if I would have picked it up if the spine hadn’t had the stripes!

    Jane Mount is an artist and entrepreneur. An exhibit of her Ideal Bookshelf project is on display at the Curiosity Shoppe in San Francisco until June 13.

     

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