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Re: Not really bookarts, but related

In a message dated 97-12-08 19:36:38 EST, kirstint@xxxxxxxxxxxx writes:

<< First, one of the offerings in the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog this
year is a set of rare first-editions, which struck me as an odd thing for a
Christmas catalog that tends to offer full-size merri-go-rounds  >>

I've just read Nicholas Baker's essay, "Books as Furniture," which first
appeared in *The New Yorker* but I found it in *The Best American Essays -
1996*.  It's a delightful essay in which he describes in cogent detail the
recent fashion of books as cultural statement in mail-order catalogues.  Just
to encourage you to read the whole thing, here are some excerpts:


[The essay begins with a description of the mail-order catalogue from The
Company Store] ... But in another way The Company Store is in fact a used-book
seller -- or at least the people there are committed book propagandists --
since more than twenty old volumes appear in the pages of the catalogue.
 ... Nor is The Company Store alone among mail-order catalogues in giving
prominence to the old or little-known work of literature.  I counted thirty-
six hand-me-down books, none with their original jackets on, in fifteen
different settings, in the Crate & Barrel catalogue for the spring of '95.
The books lie open on chairs, on hammocks, on the floor, as if whoever was
reading them had left off briefly to check the status of an earth-toned lentil
soup ...
What is it with all these books?  Isn't the Book supposed to be in decline --
its authority eroding, its informational tax base fleeing to suburbs of
impeccably edged and weeded silicon?


He has gone through the catalogues with a magnifying glass, determined what
titles are on display, and looked them up in the library.  His accounts of his
discoveries are hilarious in light of their setting in these catalogues.  He
goes on to relate anecdotes about books as ornament, books as furniture in
competition, sometimes, with books as reading units.  An interesting account
of a tenth-century scholar who was outbid on a book he greatly desired by a
man who wanted the book because it was the right size to fit a hole in his
library.  Cassette holders made to look like booksets.  Interesting book forms
found in the children's section of the bookstore.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the essay, particularly in light of this thread.


Beth Lee
Tallahassee, Florida

book swap website:
<A HREF="http://members.aol.com/callibeth/bookswap/index.htm";>

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