April 14, 2009KR BlogReading

Decorate Just Like Gatsby

One of those things that either might be fantastically new and crazy, or which everyone but me has already heard of. Namely, a service where you can buy books in bulk strictly for the purpose of displaying them in your home. Just like Jay Gatsby:

“‘See!’ he cried triumphantly. ‘It’s a bona fide piece of printed matter. It fooled me. This fella’s a regular Belasco. It’s a triumph. What thoroughness! What realism! Knew when to stop too–didn’t cut the pages. But what do you want? What do you expect?’

“He snatched the book from me and replaced it hastily on its shelf muttering that if one brick was removed the whole library was liable to collapse.”

Earlier this year, partly because I was conscious of how things were beginning to look, I resolved to do exactly the opposite of acquiring books. With one quarter of the year passed, I’m sorry to say I haven’t made many inroads with that resolution. But now that I know about this service, why not donate a box? Can you imagine the potential for serendipity that I’d be setting into motion? Someone orders a few feet of books to impress a fetching specimen of the opposite sex who comes over for dinner…said specimen browses the bookshelves and pulls a copy from the top shelf…and suddenly both parties are on their second bottle of wine laughing about the whole thing and how silly it is to buy books to impress people, yet they’re nonetheless glad that such a ridiculous thing has brought them together…Why, it be another proof of literature as the glue of civilization.

Or at least another way for me to export books without the shame of dumping another box into Goodwill.

Anyway. The whole thing is via Christopher Shea at the Globe’s Brainiac blog, with thanks:

“Evolutionary psychology suggests that a big personal library is not unlike the plumage of a peacock — a signal of one’s fitness as a mate, in this case mental fitness. Darwinian theory also says that in cases where true signals of fitness exist for a species, you’ll find fakers. Enter Books by the Foot, an online service that lets anyone with shelf space and a credit card create a literary display that will impress — at least until your visitors start asking too many nosy questions.”