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Why a Book Under a Bowl Isn't an Abomination

[Don't forget to read the bottom of the post!]

Often, closemindness and snobbery are dangerous traits to have, especially if it's combined with overreaction

This happened on both The Passive Voice and The Huffington Post, on an article about using books as decor. A few of the commentors reacted poorly to the idea:

Books are NOT decor.

Maybe that's fine for Hipsters, or the pseudo-literarati, but books are more for reading.

When owning books becomes more about the decor than being read, you know civilisation is in trouble.

Oh, yuck! How shallow! Books should be readily available for reading and study, not as a decoration or to show off someone's learning.

Using books to make a plinth for a tacky little porcelain bowl, in particular, is an abomination.

"Abomination"? That's a strong word for something harmless.

The problem with these kinds of comments is that they're dipping into the "no true Scotsman" mindset. That's a dangerous mindset to have.

So, what are the problems?

Here are the presumptions being made:

  1. Books aren't not meant to be used as decor.
  2. Using a book for another purpose besides reading and not reading it is bad.

The second statement is a definite philosophical issue, but the first statement, I think, is wrong.


Books can be used for decor.

Using a book as decor is not degrading.

(I'm going to repeat some of the points I used in my comment on The Passive Voice, presuming that it gets rescued from the spam folder. Akismet hates me.)

When I'm a published writer, and I see one of my novels being used as a pedestal or cut up into a work of art, I will see it as a compliment. That means that the person who put my novel in that position cares enough about it to use beyond its original purpose.

Well, I used a so-so book as an electric fan stand until I gave the book away, but hey, at least it's not attracting dust.

You can't really object to decor that involves simple book arranging into colors or other patterns. Or books arranged into a sculpture for a bookstore.

For an art therapy session, my mom got a lot of old, disused books from her father-in-law and had the students cut the novels into works of expression. The books might not be whole ever again, but it was likely they wouldn't be read anyways, all stored in the basement. They're serving a better purpose: therapy.

For some complex examples of cut-up books in action, look at this post I reblogged on my Tumblr.

What about rare books?

Maybe that's one exception. If a book only has a few copies of itself left in the world, maybe preserving a few of them for future reading is of the best interest.

Maybe.

It'll be interesting seeing an original edition of a hate-speech book being rearranged into a world peace message. That's an exception to another exception.

Is it okay to use books without reading them?

I set off at least one conversation from asking this question, but I asked around for a variety of opinions.

Almost everyone agreed on one opinion: It's okay if you only use books as decor, but be ready to be asked if you read them and be embarrassed when you admit you didn't.

I'll go with this opinion. Thinking about it, it is tacky, and slightly pretentious  However, I don't think it's a practice that people should be disgusted with. It might seem strange, but it's harmless.

Besides, my dad says that at least one store in New York sell books for this purpose by the yard. They've been doing that for decades.

So in conclusion...

I think on the Internet, people can react strongly, as shown in the comments quoted above.

I also relearned another example: Internet comments should be avoided.

YOUR TURN: What do you think of books being used as decor?

PS: Thanks for all the comments and links on the last two articles on this blog! Keep on reading and sharing. Since I don't have any fiction out there yet, those are the two most important actions you can do in terms of my blog.

If you have any requests for articles, don't hesitate to email me at chihuahuazero gmail {dot} com with your suggestion! I can't guarantee that I will write it, because I only want to write a post if I have something useful to say, but I'll prefer to write stuff you want to read and share.