In recent years I have become obsessed with books that serve as background decorations rather than for reading. This is not unusual because it has gone on for a long time. But it is fascinating–at least to me.
On President’s Day I was watching “55 Days in Peking” on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) when midway through there stood actor Charlton Heston in front of an interesting book case in Peking’s government house. It was filled with books except for two areas where two white camels stood, drawing your eyes away from the books as well as Heston’s dialogue. Thanks to the set director.
Today you will find many news commentaries (MSNBC, CNN, etc. ) given in front of a books background. Have you ever noticed the arrangement of the books? They are not all setting in up and down style but here and there will be three or four books laying on their sides. I don’t think these arrangements are made for you to read the titles of the books, just for a pleasing background. At this same time Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy for president. What was behind him? A panel of books but somewhat blurred. I wondered if it might be a book wallpaper which I have seen available in rolls.
During the George Busch (the son) administration I was an officer in the Illinois Chapter of National Federation of Press Women . During our national convention I was invited to sit at a table with the keynote speaker Peggy Noonan, who was a prominent Capitol Hill reporter at the time. Now at the time President Busch gave his press briefings in what appeared to be the library. Or at least there appeared to be a wall of books behind him. Behind his right shoulder was a standout blue book with a ratty binding. I asked Peggy if she had ever noticed that book and what was the title. She never did get back to me, but the briefings moved on. I have often wondered if the books were signed by their authors or if someone just collected books from the White House basement and popped them on the bookcase.
There was a point in time when people with bookshelves would just go to Goodwill or a book store and buy discarded books and fill their shelves. At one time I too subscribed to Great Books because the bindings were richly matched in mauve, greens and browns. My mother-in-law gave me a set of five books by Pearl Buck in matching tan covers with gold imprinted titles. Started off with The Good Earth.
One place where you can still find beautifully matched books is a law office. So many of these are available digitally that the books seem to be subscribed to just for decoration. In the 1950s when I began my career with a law firm in Springfield, MO. I really did open and use those books. They were heavy but beautiful!