I am not going to talk about THAT book. It’s had the sort of publicity in a few days that top selling authors would give their non-writing arm for.
In fact I’m going a little off piste with this one by asking a simple question. Can books be regarded as works of art or ornaments? I ask this because just before Christmas while out gadding about on my bike for an hour or two I stopped for the necessary coffee-and-cake break. The coffee shop had a log fire, great atmosphere and several items on sale.
Including a small pile of old books neatly bound in rough string and positioned on the display shelf just so. The intention was clear. These were not for reading, but to be placed somewhere just to catch the eye for the style and antiquity. Shame on me – but I didn’t even check to see what the books actually were. They just looked like a perfect item to have on show.
I expect many of us have seen photographs of some the incredible libraries around the world such as The Admont library in Austria, the Czech National Library and the Bibliotheque Nationale de France in Paris. These are art galleries for books.
And I’m sure all serious readers have longed to have one of those rooms full of floor-to-ceiling shelves piled with books that will never see the light of day, a big fire and large comfy chair you can disappear into while reading. It is the perfect comfort zone, but of course it’s also a form of a personal book art gallery.
In the likely event that you don’t actually live out this dream, I suspect most of us have books on show that have more to do with being an art form rather than pragmatic storage. It may not be in the style of a small pile neatly tied up with old string. But the motive is the same!
Mine occur in three places around the house. There is a shelf of the iconic Penguin orange books, a shelf of art nouveau books with beautifully designed spines and one of those wonderful floating shelves which makes a pile of books on a wall look like they are totally unsupported. This, incidentally, is also of pragmatic value. They are some of my books waiting to be read! Top of that pile is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson.
I trust you all managed to receive some books for Christmas to add to your TBR pile. Several authors I’ve tackled lately have been influenced in one way or another by Proust. I’ve never got round to reading anything of his so my pick of the presents was his In Search of Lost Time Volume 1 tracked down by my daughter. It looks a gem.
In my early days in the 1960s one of my favourite authors was Hammond Innes. I’ve never read anything of his since and was delighted to be given The Lonely Skier, Campbells Kingdom and the Wreck of the Mary Deare published by Vintage Classics. This gem of a series features authors such as Gerald Durrell, Arthur Ransome, Ernest Hemingway, Iris Murdoch and Virginia Woolf. They are great for plugging back into your past or catching up with authors you keep promising yourself to try.
Born in North Wales, poet & writer Paul Mortimer has lived in Tiverton for 13 years. His first poetry collection, Fault Line, was published by Lapwing in 2015, followed by Wind Voices from the same publishing house in 2019. He has appeared at several literary festivals and headlined at a number of poetry events in recent years