I’m tak­ing a novel ap­proach and ditch­ing the #shelfies

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - INSIDER - MOLLARD AN­GELA [email protected] TWIT­TER.COM/ANGELAMOLLARD

Last year when I planned to sell my house I had some stylists come in to make it look, well, stylish. The first thing they did was pull all the books off my floor-to-ceil­ing shelves and stack them, with ruth­less ef­fi­ciency, in colour­coded piles.

Then they put them back on the shelves in lit­tle col­lec­tions of colours with some of the books stand­ing up­right and oth­ers stacked hor­i­zon­tally. On top of the books they placed things from round the house — a globe, some colour­ful tiles from Mex­ico, a vin­tage cam­era, a photo of a sy­camore pod and a bird’s nest I’d found un­der a tree in the front gar­den.

It looked al­right I sup­pose ex­cept that the non­fic­tion was all mixed up with the fic­tion so The Devil Wears Prada was sit­ting in­con­gru­ously along­side 501 Worst Crimes.

When I pointed out to the stylist that the 502nd worst crime was that the two vol­umes shared no com­mon­al­ity but for their pur­ple spines, she gave me the sort of with­er­ing look that im­plied I was dense.

“But I’ve read most of these books you de­sign Nazi,” I wanted to say, not­ing from the cor­ner of my eye that a bi­og­ra­phy of Os­car Wilde was sit­ting pleas­ingly be­side Eve­lyn Waugh’s Scoop thanks to their sim­patico turquoise spines.

The stylists then took some pho­to­graphs and de­clared that this was the best “shelfie” they’d ever cre­ated and how nice it looked with all the “white space” and how great was it that the books could now “breathe”.

Sure, the ones that had made it on to the shelf were “breathing”. The other 300 were shoved into boxes where they were doubt­less ex­pir­ing all be­cause prospec­tive buy­ers don’t like to be over­whelmed by read­ing ma­te­rial ap­par­ently.

Anyway, I didn’t sell the house (it’s a long story) and so have spent the past year look­ing at my pre­ten­tious “shelfie”-wor­thy book­case and get­ting frus­trated when I can’t find, say, Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. Hon­estly, it’s enough to make you want to stick your head in the oven.

I should be grate­ful be­cause a Bri­tish in­te­rior de­signer called Lau­ren Cole­man re­cently stacked her books back­wards with the spines to the wall in or­der to keep the colour pal­ette of her liv­ing room “neu­tral”. She’d tried out the trick af­ter spot­ting it on Pin­ter­est, and be­cause her books were mainly chick lit and so their cov­ers were, as she put it, “gar­ish”.

As some­one who has writ­ten a book — it took a year and was the hard­est thing I’ve ever done but for giv­ing birth — I want to punch Lau­ren Cole­man. I want to march up to her chalk-toned book­shelves with their art­fully-placed pot plants and whim­si­cal picture of gi­raffes and pull ev­ery one of her ma­genta and tan­gelo hued hol­i­day reads on to her lime­washed floor­boards.

Hon­estly, when did we be­come so obsessed with how things look that we for­got about how they feel?

My books are among the most pre­cious things in my home, give or take a child or two. They thrum with pos­si­bil­ity, es­cape, imag­i­na­tion and hope. Each is a wardrobe into another Nar­nia. They are, as Stephen King points out, “uniquely por­ta­ble magic”.

My book­shelves not only hold sto­ries, they’re a chron­i­cle of my life. A yel­low­ing child­hood copy of Char­lotte’s Web, the Ray­mond Chan­dler short sto­ries given to me by a lover, the magic of Gabriel Gar­cia Mar­quez, the grit and lyri­cism of Tim Winton, the plain speak­ing of He­len Garner, the sharp­ness and ob­ser­va­tion of Liane Mo­ri­arty, the en­vi­able good sense of Alain de Bot­ton.

I re­mem­ber in the early days of moth­er­hood walk­ing into another mother’s house and know­ing im­me­di­ately that we would be friends for­ever sim­ply be­cause of her book­shelf. A woman who loved the char­ac­ters of An­nie Proulx, the wit of Nick Hornby and the bru­tal­ity of Chris­tos Tsi­olkas was al­ways go­ing to be some­one I would cher­ish long af­ter our kids stopped hav­ing play dates.

Last year I couldn’t be­lieve my luck when I was paired with Jen­nifer Byrne, the host of the ABC’s now de­funct The Book Show, for a char­ity walk. For six hours I grilled her on ev­ery au­thor she’d ever met and the books she loved the most. I’ve even con­vinced her to share her five best book club read­ing picks (see be­low).

For a while it seemed that books were go­ing the way of cas­settes — Ikea even an­nounced that it was mak­ing its pop­u­lar Billy book­case deeper to ac­com­mo­date or­na­ments since “no­body has books any­more”.

Well check out this month’s cover of Real Liv­ing magazine. It’s ut­terly gor­geous — a pink vel­vet couch in front of a row of Billy book­cases filled to brim­ming with books.

The truth is noth­ing looks as good on a book­case as books. Yes there are owls and pineap­ples and shells and even what looks like a vi­bra­tor among the 989,000 “shelfie” posts on In­sta­gram but the best ones are stuffed lov­ingly with books. I am go­ing to ex­hume mine from stor­age where they have suf­fo­cated too long.

“Books,” as the mar­vel­lous au­thor Anna Quindlen notes, “are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the des­ti­na­tion, and the jour­ney. They are home.”

It looks pretty but where are the rest of the books? Picture: iS­tock

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.