Does anyone else get excited by the words: “Ideal Bookshelf”? As someone who’s jumped around cities quite a bit, I’m always leaving some books behind, and can never seem to gather all of my favorites in one place. That, and keeping up with a towering list (expanding by the day) of must-have titles makes the pursuit of my dream bookshelf as elusive as any other.
Websites like Bookshelf Porn and fuckyeahlibraries tell me I’m not the only one who daydreams about a big long bookcase. Umm, size matters there too? That’s partly why artist Jane Mount started painting bookshelves. But she also chose the classic furnishing piece because of how they represent a different form of portraiture, illustrating a subject from “the inside not the out”. For a fee, she’ll paint your best shelf, the one you have imagined or one that you actually own, dismantled or not.
I could get an 8×10 of ten titles I’ve had to give up and easily bring it every time I move for less than the cost of shipping the actual covers from place to place. It might not be the real thing, but it could be the next best. Mount also sells prints of themed shelves, including one of the Harry Potter series, famous children’s titles and classic cookbooks. And she’s now working with former Paris Review editor Thessaly La Force on a book that will depict the shelves of some modern-day literary giants, out in 2013.
The question used to be “What’s in a name?”, but these days, it’s something like “What’s on your bookshelf?” Maybe it’s only me, but book snobs seem to have replaced foodies as the cultural one-uppers of the day. Old titles resurface from obscurity like flakes of gold, and everything except brass trumpets herald the most anticipated new arrivals. But I’ll still put faith into the saying that you are what you read. Books bond with their readers in such unique and intimate ways that a bookshelf represents a different sort of romantic history. I’ll admit, I’m still cautious of any man who’s taken Hemingway to bed.