Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"I grew up kissing books and bread."

That quote is by Salman Rushdie. And I also love this one:

"I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library." --Jorge Luis Borges

I literally grew up in a bookstore. I say it all the time, but it's true. From the time I was ten until I was fourteen, we lived in the basement of my family's bookstore--not in the creepy "under the stairs" kind of way, but in the "it was a full-fledged, four-bedroom apartment" kind of way. And at the time, I never loved it as much as I should have.

My parents sold used books as well as new, and one afternoon a customer came in looking for red books. Titles? Didn't matter. She just needed books that were red because they matched the interior design of the room in her house thy were intended to decorate. At the time, the idea of books as decoration was completely foreign--and just wrong--to me. You read books; you don't prop them up on a shelf in order to bring out the burgundy in your carpet. It seemed almost blasphemous to me.

My sons' room has bothered me since we moved in more than a year ago, and I haven't been able to put my finger on the problem. Did it lack color? Depth? Was it imbalanced? Did I need to Feng Shui it (as if I know how)? Then a couple of weeks ago, it finally hit me: the room didn't have a bookshelf. It had books--in baskets under the desk and in a basket by the dresser. But when you walked into the room, you didn't see those books. So I put a shelf in, filled it, put a few picture frames on top, and ta-dah... I'm happy. Would an interior designer approve of the layout? Definitely not. But I approve because the room now feels right; it feels like part of our home. I used books to decorate--but they're books the kids read. The titles matter; the colors don't.

When we were looking for houses, we would find ones that were big enough for our family, that had enough yard space, and that were in a good school district. But we kept running into the same problem: no room for our piano and no room for our books. One of the real-estate agents with whom we worked kept saying, "Oh, but you could put a shelf here. Or here. Or in the dining room; I've seen shelves in dining rooms and they're so stylish." She was talking "a" shelf--as in a ledge. We were talking shelving units--as in the ones that fit 150 or so books each. Multiple shelving units.

I don't understand people who don't read anything more than the newspaper or the occasional Time magazine. I'm not a snob about this. I'm not saying it shows a lack of intelligence. But where does your imagination come out to play? Aren't you curious about history or sociology or anthropology? And how can you feel at home without at least a few rows of books in every room of your house?

Had I not grown up surrounded by the smell of cracked leather bindings and pages so musty they reminded me of the decaying trees and then earth they might otherwise have been, perhaps I wouldn't need books as much as I do. Perhaps it would be a window filled with plants or a great stereo system or a large dining room table for family gatherings.

So I wonder: What physical representation of your own psyche demands a place in your home?


Maryanne said...

I'd say it's books for me too. We had two large almost ceiling height bookshelves in our main "living" room growing up (I don't really know what to call it-- it's a Brooklyn row house like a brownstone and the main room when you enter under the stoop is where we all spent the most time). My dad keeps adding bookshelves wherever he can, even though my mom has suggested he use the library more so they don't have to store all of it. When I mentioned to my dad that there is limited space for the books and that they'd soon be everywhere he commented "Ah, but what better way to die than being covered in books." He was being silly, but still... I saw in a decorating magazine once a living room in which the person had turned all the books pages out to make it look more serene (not all the colors and words of the bindings). I honestly could not believe that anyone could actually think such a thing was reasonable, and then do it!

Liesl said...

Hi Bobbie. Sherry Falzone is now in my ward and we got talking about books and writing. She told me a little about about you and that I should look you up. So I thought I'd just say "Hi."

And I agree that a home, or even a room is not complete without books! We have our "Wall of Books" in our living room that simply warms my soul.

Good luck with your writing and editing!

Susan said...

I love reading your posts, Bobbie! I've always thought any money spent on books was money well-spent and of course every room needs a book shelf! You look great in your picture too- love you, susan

Maryanne said...

My mom hopped over here from my blog, and this is what came to mind reading your post and my comment:

"I would be the most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves." -- Anna Quindlen

I've heard it before and think it's a great statement.

Bobbie said...

I love that quote, Maryanne. And I'd never heard it before. I need to send it to my mother or turn it into a plaque for her. Thanks for passing it on.

Nikole Terry said...

I am surprised when people tell me they don't like to read. It makes me cringe. When it comes to personal revelations I think that is one they should keep to themselves. It says a lot about a person.