The second in my series of photographing my friends’ book collections; I eagerly visited my friends’ homes to see what they read and how they display their books. (To see the first entry, click here.) Our collections reveal a path, of who we were and who we are striving to be. Many people living in the city have to downsize, so while the shelves are not an accurate representation of who someone is, they can reveal the thought process. Which books have they moved from apartment to apartment for over a decade?
J E N N I F E R & M A R C O
Jennifer got her BA in art history and went on to graduate school at CCA to study Visual Criticism. She had just finished organizing her books the day I visited. She explained how they are arranged by genre. Poetry, literature, children’s lit, mystery, art monographs, philosophy, spirituality. Each section is then arranged alphabetically. Within each author’s section the books are arranged alphabetically by title.
Sanyika Shakur‘s, aka Monster Kody Scott, Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member, was published in 1993. Featuring literary tropes, the style flows, everything is explained easily for the reader, and yet the book is hard to read. It’s difficulty lay not in the writing but in the content and the emotions they evoke. Without glamorizing gang life, Sharkur describes his rise through the ranks of the Crips gang. After brutally disfiguring someone, Kody is nicknamed Monster, and redefines himself by his new moniker. By the time Kody is 16, he has been shot on two separate occasions, with a total of 7 bullets entering his body.
Your book collection is a reflection of yourself, your tastes, your intellectual pursuits, your career, and your circumstances. Your books themselves can be unintentional markers of where you were or what you were doing at certain points in your life. And the items you use as placeholders instead of bookmarks can reveal another level of who you were or are. I started a new project, going through all of my books and photographing what was left in each book. I went through all the books in my apartment but have yet to go through the books in storage at my folks’ house. I started because I found two safety pins in a book. I can’t recall the book (I wish it was something appropriate like Legs McNeil’s Please Kill Me but it wasn’t). Regardless, I began to wonder what else I would find in my books.
There were too many items to include in this single entry. I still have more books to add for future blog posts. It’s fun to see who I was and what I was doing when I was reading these books. It’s interesting that many of the placeholders indicate an active social life while I’m sitting at home or on the bus reading a book. I have spent so much time out and about because if I don’t get out of my room, I’ll read or worse, watch tv all night. These placeholders reveal so much more than I remember about myself. Forgotten people, phone numbers. But they also remind me of how long I’ve known some friends, and how many states we have known each other. Whether that be physical states and mental states. They also reiterate the people that I’ve been friends with for many, many years. The ones that have seen me through going to shows like the Toiletboys and going to clubs ten years ago. And the ones that accepted my being a book nerd in the midst of a raging social scene.
Martin Amis‘ Lionel Asbo: State of Englandis a character study of a man who never changes. A career criminal who lives in the projects, Lionel Asbo becomes the primary caretaker of his orphaned nephew—Desmond Pepperdine. While in prison, Lionel wins the lottery—13.5 million pounds and he remains the same.
Tom Wolfe‘s The Bonfire of the Vanities is a contemporary naturalist novel and his protagonist, Sherman McCoy, evokes feelings reminiscent to that of Vladimir Nabokov‘s Humbert Humbert in Lolita. Wolfe allows the dialogue and plot to speak for themselves, and while concrete evidence of his voice is hard to be found, the novel’s presentation of society, justice, and media direct us to Wolfe’s opinion.