Books as Furniture

I was going to kick off this post with a quote from Nicholson Baker’s essay “Books as Furniture,” but last year I decided to move most of my books into a closet so I wouldn’t have to dust them. Not only is my Nicholson Baker essay collection nowhere to be found, but a small pile of books fell on me while I was looking for it.

So I’m feeling a little hostile toward books right now. But I’m far from alone. Only the most ferocious sublimation could have produced the projects below. Just look at these “during” photos:F0Q504AF9T4008B.LARGE hammer-books-into-place


Do the final projects justify such desecration? Well...

headboard1Yes, that would be a headboard made of a bunch of old book covers, stripped of their pages and glued to a piece of wood.

dr-quinnOur crafter is considerate enough to suggest a way for us to pass the time while waiting for the glue to dry. Give you one guess what it isn’t! “I watched an episode of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman between layers and it worked just fine. ;)… [after Step 2] Go watch another episode of Dr. Quinn… gluing down the bottom layers… will require multiple episodes of Dr. Quinn.”

This nicely illustrates Baker’s point about armoires, which were once used for book storage but have become a popular place to hide TVs. He noted that reading is what we pretend we do — and we keep a lot of books around to maintain that illusion — but what we actually do is watch TV.

At least, I think that’s what he said. See above.

Here’s another book headboard:headboard2Eye-searing? No. Clumsy and non-functional? Yes. (I can’t imagine it’s any fun to prop your pillow up against those crinkly pages so you can rea… oh, wait.)

Baker said we use books as decor to show off our smarty-pants bona fides. These folks have turned books into literal furniture — and, in the process, mauled them beyond rescue. Maybe nobody wanted to read those books anymore. But is this a worthy end?

Books become tables:0151Chairs:192Even shelves. This next one was actually inspired by “Books as Furniture!” Did the guy read the essay on opposite day?

Anyway, it’s a little joke about Humpty Dumpty, get it?book-shelf_P1DKx_58

AnatomyMurder2Yeah, ha ha. Incidentally, “Anatomy of a Murder” was a bestseller (based on a real-life 1952 case) written by Michigan Supreme Court Justice John D. Voelker under the pen name Robert Traver. It was the source material for the 1959 Otto Preminger film, and is probably a pretty good read.


The joke behind this next shelf, on the other hand, is actually quite cute. It was a finalist in a green design competition — because making this shelf helped the earth in some way, doncha know.

jennion-bookbookshelfMost of these crafters will insist that they love books, really really love them, and intend their abominations projects to show that love. I don’t buy it for a minute. People who love things don’t hack them up with power tools. Unless they’re serial killers. Hmmm…

For the final — and, OK, not-entirely-germane — proof of sublimated anti-bookism, I point to this pic from a bookstore. As a former bookstore worker, I can tell you that no one harbors more resentment toward books than bookstore workers. Look what they did here:

books-as-bricksNot only have these books been consigned to an ignoble fate, they have been BESMIRCHED with GRAFFITI to ward off passerby who might contemplate rescue!

Yes, the rage is out there. The question is, what causes it? Thoughts?

Nicholson Baker has a new… I won’t say book coming out in September, but he has… something… coming out. Maybe order it on your Kindle.


16 responses to “Books as Furniture

  1. Just imagine how GREAT that headboard is going to look all smeared with oil from the back of the owner’s head. And when the pages get crumpled and ripped from being rubbed? Awesome.

  2. In Denmark the book market has been heavily regulated until a couple of years ago.

    The publisher of a book got to decide who could sell it, and since the publisher had stock in bookshops, only bookshops got to sell most books, and only at a fixed price.

    When a book didn’t sell any more, the publisher would often have a left over stock of copies. Once a year there is a book sale were these left over books are on sale to empty the warehouses – after the sale the remaining copies are offered to the author at a discounted price, and any left over are burned!

    It always bothered me that they burned the books, then I discovered that the warehouses storing books have been designed with furnaces, so the discarded books are used to heat the warehouses containing – books. I cannot decide whether this is a good thing or some sort of cannibalism.

  3. First – I love this blog and have to be careful where/when I read it because I get funny looks. Second – I feel the need to stir it a little here. Because … every time I read anything that goes after “book killers”, there’s an assumption that all books are “good”. If shit gets printed on paper and published it must, by default, be revered and how-dare-you-hack-it-up. Come on. There’s so much dreadfully written, horribly dated, racist, sexist, utterly offensive crap out there in book form … I’d like to argue that it’s real damn lucky it got turned into a table! I say hooray to using it to warm books that might be worth reading! Our species has a tradition of turning trees into pulp on which to publish some mind-altering thoughts and ideas… as well as a whole lot of crap. Then we throw the crap into a landfill. Because, understandably, nobody wants to (or should!) read it. Awesome cycle. I say flay them slowly. (Confession: I love *good* books. I’m a serial crap-book killer. My blog is littered with the evidence … )

    • Thanks for the kind words! And that top you feature in your latest post is way cute.

      As far as bad books, yeah, right there with you. Not to mention all the copies of, like, “Mechanized Drill Bit Encyclopedia 1994, vol. 13” that get printed up. My problem here is twofold: One, the people who use books in this way don’t use the mechanized drill bit book, they use books that have character, because those are the kinds of books you want in your home, functional or no. Some of those books, however lame they are, would have had years of life left in them if they’d simply been taken to a thrift store. And, two, while I’m exaggerating my feelings about “desecrating” books, it does seem troubling to see people hacking at and nailing up objects they claim to hold in the highest regard. Nobody would ever admit to not liking books, to feeling pressured to read, or to feeling frustrated that they never get around to reading many of the books they own. Those feelings don’t get voiced, but they’re out there, and I think they’re what lie behind many of these projects.

      Glad to discover your blog.

      • Absolutely – well put. And it doesn’t help that in some places (esp the USA), we seem to be drowning in discarded / unwanted books. Do you know you can buy “books-by-the-yard” from places like Half Price Books? When they’re drowning in inventory, it’s a way for them to clear space. Next month I’m running a book-craft workshop at a library in Minnesota because they cannot *give* their old books away. They are so overstocked … they’ve tried everything. What’s sitting there now is entirely unwanted. So their program person contacted me: they’re going to let people make stuff with the books v. throwing them all out. Meanwhile, South Africa (my home country) is starving for books. They’re incredibly expensive to buy new and used book stores don’t really exist – people pass their books around or wait patiently for the library to stock what they want. The international version of the the Kindle is actually a revolution there! Anyway, I think the “crafting with books” phenomenon may be about supply and demand. Definitely says something interesting about expressing values. 🙂

      • That is amazing about South Africa! I will have to find out more about the impact of e-books there.

        The supply and demand of/for books in the US is definitely weird. Lots of libraries have been culling books just as fast as they can in order to pay more attention to the Internet, which I think is a crime. On the other hand, all books are faaaar from equal. My mom was bragging recently about donating some books to a needy library in a neighboring county — but they were 50-year-old science textbooks! For real! Now, THOSE I could see turning into a table, but I wouldn’t want the ugly thing in my house!

  4. At Uncle Hugo’s Science Fiction Bookstore in Minneapolis, if you ask for the bathroom key, it is chained to a drilled-through copy of the novelization of WATERWORLD.

    Because yes. Some books are okay to desecrate.

  5. Pingback: “Books Do Furnish A Room”*… | (Roughly) Daily·

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