Monday, May 23, 2016


Books as Decoration

We picked up some used bookcases this weekend, through the miracle of craigslist, and put them in the family room.

Nature abhors a vacuum, so the bookcases had to be populated.

As a former grad student and longtime academic, I own more books than is probably healthy.  The pace of accumulation has tapered off over the last few years, but in addition to the bookcase in the living room, there are three full ones in the basement, along with about twenty “bankers’ boxes” of books.  My job was to dig through those boxes looking for books that are display-worthy, keeping in mind grandparents, neighbors, and kids’ friends.

It’s more fraught than it sounds.

Some calls are easy enough.  The Wife is a dedicated fiction reader with good taste, so her stuff tends to make it.  As a non-academic, she missed the whole critical theory/postmodernism thing entirely.  That’s mostly good, but it leads to a different sense of book titles.  She specifically requested “no embarrassing books.”

Reader, I was offended.

Embarrassing?  Embarrassing?  Moi?  There shall be no room in this house for such rank philistinism!  

And then I started unpacking the boxes.

The Marx/Engels Reader?  Hmm.  Hey, neighbors...

Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the Frenzy of the Visible?  Don’t really want to give a synopsis of that one.  I can just imagine:

TW: What’s this about?

Me: Visual expressions of female sexuality, especially on film.  I remember an extended metaphor about musicals and porn movies.

TW: (glaring)

Me: Well, it doesn’t come with clips.  You don’t even want to know her analysis of “Singin’ in the Rain”...


Sexual/Textual Politics?  Nooo…

History of Sexuality, Part One?  Admittedly, the “Part One” element smacks of comic genius, but The Boy’s friends might have too much fun with that one.

More Sex is Safer Sex?  It’s about behavioral economics, but the title is a nonstarter.

The Phenomenology of Spirit?  Somehow, “Phenomenology” doesn’t scream “welcome, neighbor!”  I kept Minima Moralia downstairs for the same reason.  

Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks?  Um…

Commodify Your Dissent?  Perhaps not.

I don’t remember Walter Benjamin dealing with these issues.

I didn’t scrub everything.  Discipline and Punish made the cut -- Foucault, plus lawn care -- as did plenty of substantive stuff with less eyebrow-raising titles.  Still, remembering what was considered normal in grad school was a bit bracing.

Wise and worldly readers, do you have serious books you feel obligated to protect civilians from?

Not really, but I make a point of placing Ayn Rand on the shelf with the other mythology.
Durkheim's Suicide has prompted several questions from visitors.
The only book I am slightly embarrassed by is "Nude Pattern" by Andre de Dienes. Not because there is anything wrong with soft porn, but because his 1950s photographic style looks so dated. On the other hand, it is interesting in itself that not only clothes but naked bodies have fashions.

What a nasty lot of books you seem to have. No art, science, literature, poetry, autobiography, history ? No natural history, no exploration ? No books about music or musicians ? (Autobiographies of musicians are usually worth reading. I recommend Mezz Mezzrow and Hildegard Knef particularly.)

Have you read "Drifting Cities" by Stratis Tsirkas ? Definitely a great novel, not to be missed.

Have fun
Don Cox

A book of poems by Rod McKuen.

But I also keep my First Edition (1966 English printing) of Mao's little red book out of the way. It is in very good conditon. but missing the red ribbon marker. It is stored next to Khrushchev's "The Crimes of Stalin", a privately printed anti-communist pamphlet, and a report of a Senate committee about communist influence on the anti-Vietnam movement, plus a special edition of Soviet Life about the summit between Reagan and Gorbachev. A copy of "The First Circle" is nearby.

Somewhere I also have a book that bears a special stamp from the US government saying that the book was cleared for import but the government does not endorse its content (or something to that effect). Interesting times, the 60s!
My copy of the Little Red Book (1966 Ed) does have the ribbon. It never occurred to me to hide it away. It is on the Religion and Miscellaneous shelf between "The Conference of the Birds" and the Koran.

"The Conference" is worth reading.

Don Cox
"Violent Python" - it's a programming book that talks about using Python for hacking (which doesn't help my case...)

No, I'm not busy being a l33t hacker. But it's got some useful programming knowledge.
I keep it out of the way because that is how it lost the ribbon. Idiots.

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