Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Books and Their Covers

I have to admit that I am one of those people who remove dust jackets, I like the binding, and I read the contents. I thought of this today when I read a piece in the NY Times about designer dust jackets. I keep the jackets, in large dusty boxes and I know what is where. You see I have over 10,000 books, all neatly arranged, my biographies are alphabetical, compulsive, no, my lovely wife was a librarian, and and organized mind is well something.

The statement which was to amaze was:

Mr. Hermann designed a glassy Neutra-like house with a 60-by-14-foot shelving system, which has room for 4,000 books, he said. 

“But who has 4,000 books?” he said. “I always stage my houses, so it was up to me to fill the shelves.” He ordered 2,000 white-wrapped books from Mr. Wine and deployed them in tidy, horizontal stacks (watch for the white-wrapped book to become this year’s version of the deer head).

But at 4,000 one is just starting. You see they are all neatly organized, with my little yellow tags from when they were read and used as a reference. I know every book, I personally selected it, and knew where it would fit on both the shelf and the knowledge base.

Would I ever buy a Kindle, hardly, a great deal of what I have is electronic, some ends up on paper, and used as reference materials. But some of those old books, 150-200 years ago, are true friends. I have a history book used in grammar school in 1807, in New Jersey, and surprise, there were still slaves, in New Jersey. Somehow that fact never came up before.

Then there are the books with names in them, from people I actually knew decades ago, and one wonders what trip this book took to get to where it is now.

So books are not decorations, although I am somewhat surrounded by them and dust jackets are like Greek statues with the private parts hidden by drapes. The true beauty is what is in the book and it should sit there and shout it out, not be hidden behind some chi chi cloak.