Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.

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Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

But does it match the couch?

Now you can color-coordinate your outfit to match what you're reading.

I know that's important to you. It's important to me, too. The relief I am feeling upon learning that "Time Warner Book Group routinely changes the color or design of book jackets at a store's request so the book will color-coordinate with the merchandise" is inexpressible.

Not to be outdone, Harper-Collins is casting spring books in "margarita and sangria", colors that will be dominating spring's "color palette." Thank God. I was thinking I would have to toss all my books--so few, after all, resemble a Chevy's Menu.

Seriously, Julie Rosman's article is a mostly depressing examination of marketing to lifestyle purchasers. Who in hell wants to buy books at the outrageously expensive clothing store Anthropologie? Ruth Rennert does. Interviewed whilst paging through (yet another) glossy book about Jackie Kennedy, she announces this is much nicer than the stress of "enduring the hustle and bustle of big bookstores."

Go to an independent bookstore, fool!

There is something to marketing books in non-traditional spots--even Berkeley Bowl sells a Bruce Aidells title at the meat counter. It's presence never struck me as irrational. As for selling books at farm-supply houses, great. if I lived in the middle of nowhere, I would be grateful.

But "You walk into Restoration Hardware and you want the couch and the vase and the nightstand, and then you want the two books that are on the nightstand." Ms. Rosen said. "The books complete the story."

What story? The story of how wealthy you are, how chic, what flawless taste you have? How perfectly of a piece your life is, right down to the doorknobs? What books are on that nightstand, anyway? German art books? The work of Rem Koolhass? English gardens?

Do the book jackets match the furniture?

Never mind content. Never mind quality, or whether you have any interest in actually reading the damned book. It's merely an object. It completes the story you are telling yourself. If you tell the story correctly, that is, buy those sangria-toned books, you will no longer require your therapist, acupressure practitioner, marriage counselor, SSRI's, or Lunesta.

Nor will you have to make decisions about what to read. Starbucks will help you. Anthropologie will help you. Feeling old? Losing your edge? Clothing retailer Martin & Osa is creating a "reading list" of "things that aren't mainstream, more unusual, more unique." Dress cool, read cool. Spend lots.

I have an alternate story to offer:

You are an intelligent person. You enjoy reading, maybe even love it. You know what you like and why, but are confident enough to venture into unknown territory--the occasional mystery, that new Stephen King nobody can agree on. Your bedside table belonged to your grandmother. It came from the extremely unglamorous JC Penney, but it has immeasurable emotional value to you. Incidentally, it's a pretty nice piece of furniture.

You have never set foot in Anthropologie, and the very thought of all those fake vintage doorknobs at Restoration Hardware is enough to send you running for the valium. Instead, you haunt used bookshops, spending too much time and money amidst the dusty stacks. You consider this activity akin to treasure hunting.

The smell of used bookshops makes you happy. Finding unusual editions--unedited galleys, European releases, elusive translations from the French--makes you even happier. You will take these home and pile them upon your already overburdened JC Penney nightstand.

You will not wonder whether or not the books "complete the story" your bedroom furnishings tell. You'll be too busy. Reading.

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