During the lockdown, on the television news, pundits broadcasting from home found it very necessary to ensure the presence of a bookshelf in the background. Some were high up, some were a bookcase, touching the floor, a couple were kitchen shelves with the junk removed and books put there instead, one was obviously in an attic where the poor dusty books lived. What they all had in common was very neat shelves full of unloved books.
Over the ten years (eleven in September) that JaneLaverick.com has been going, the one characteristic that links every reader is being a reader. If that sounds a bit zen, I refer to your habit, your hobby, your interest. The interesting fact that many readers of this column appear to be absolutely fine with not going out raving, dancing or sightseeing, as you have emailed me to say, but the same readers would be lost, utterly, if some virus wiped the books out.
As a real reader, therefore, you are in a better position than the ‘trying to look intelligent’ brigade on the telly, to say what is on a frequently-used bookshelf. Mine do have books on them, off them and overflowing generally. Wedged in, piled up, shoved in corners and flooding because the new bookcase in a house like yours or mine will be empty for less than a week and inadequate within a month.
Where is your current reading pile? I usually have three.
In the cupboard beside the loo, on the floor beside the desk and (first and most important) beside the bed. I seem to be incapable of getting up or going to bed without reading. This is a lifetime (so far) condition. My mother frequently used to tell her friends the entertaining story of how she used to shout upstairs that the school bus wouldn’t wait and then go upstairs to find me, sitting on the bed, in underwear and one sock, reading a book. She thought it was funny, I thought it was normal. The S&H was the same; in his bedroom his natural state was reading something either from a book or off a screen.
For you and me and the S&H reading is the same as breathing, really, got to do it.
Not for us the neat, fake, tallest on the left, shortest on the right, colour co-ordinated bookshelf. The real bookshelf, or pile, I make no distinction, is as constantly evolving as a compost heap, for the same reason, it is the sustenance of life, it is where ideas get born. Other life forms, attracted by the ideas wafting around, colonise the heap. Pots of pencils, bookmarks, pieces of paper, lists, gloves (in the winter) numerous spectacles, sweets, biscuits, gadgets (reading related) devices such as electronic readers, plastic rulers, many tickets. advertising material, seed catalogues, pennies, cough drops, pots full of brushes, cameras, labels, sticky tape dispensers…………………
To name just a few.
What is on your bookcase? What is the most unlikely item?
I ask out of interest because I am currently drawing and cutting the stencil to make the frieze round the top of the lounge wall. It will be a bookshelf, but not a neat, fake one. I am making it on several sheets of paper A4, sideways, because that is the size of the RSJ supporting the ceiling between the dining room and the lounge. The shelf will be edged with gold doilies, because I have a commercial stencil which almost exactly matches the medallion on the chosen carpet and I have seen bookshelves in a library of some stately home, which had lace edging. Anyway, in theory I am nearly an old lady, so if I am having a bookshelf which is a witty social comment I should have an edging to match, I feel.
I have drawn and cut the first stencil, which is the simple one. It has books upright, piled and a pencil pot.
Now I want to get interesting. Today I plan to do a sleeping dragon. A small one. And some books.
What is on your shelf or filling your bookcase as well as the books? How many interesting things are hanging out of the pile?
I don’t for a moment believe you put them all there. Once you collect books you are creating a force. All that thinking, wedged in tight. Those minds, jammed between the pages.
Collections of books are like thought magnets, they attract items of the subset of ‘aids to thinking’. Could be anything from a piece of paper to a hat to keep your brain warm.
So, what is on your bookshelf?