Saturday, September 20, 2014
Saturday Fun Activity: Where IS this?
Do you have to be a writer to hate books as decoration? Purely decoration, I mean. My house is decorated with books, but actual books I either have read, am reading or will read.
It's bad enough when real books are trotted out for show, when you go to a department store and start to look at the Readers Digest condensed books and old law texts and such they buy by the pound and scatter on their shelves.
Or the homes of rich swells with linear feet of those leather Franklin Mint editions, with the gold stamping and the fat ribbon, that you can tell have never been opened. That's bad, but at least someone had the idea: books look nice. Let's get some books. Even those Restoration Hardware stacks of books, with their covers ripped off, bound in twine, had a certain post-Apocalyptic, at-least-it-was-a-book-once air of authenticity.
Look at the above. Faux books. What's with that? As if real books weren't available. Which I suppose at some point in the future they won't be, but this has the air of a premature surrender. This tableau was no doubt supposed to look cool, but I found it chilling. Or maybe I'm reading too much into it.
This is in a public place of accommodation in downtown Chicago—not a store, not a restaurant, but a lobby somewhere. Do you know where? Did you also notice these white sentinels of illiteracy?
The prize this week is something suitably bookish. When I wrote "Don't Give Up the Ship" in 2002 I took the title from Admiral Oliver Hazard Perry's battle flag, flown durning the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813, a banner he took to heart in spirit if not to the word, when he abandoned his disabled flagship, the Lawrence, and rowed over to the Niagara and press the battle afresh, and win.
I thought it represented a certain essential spirit of persistence in the face of setback—quite useful in professional journalism— and bought a gross or so of the little flags, with round plastic stands stands, as promotional gifts for the book. They didn't quite work, and I ended up with a lot of them, which are popping up in odd places. It's a bracing message—sort of the American version of the Brit's "Keep Calm and Carry On." If you win—post your guesses below, please—I'll toss in this orange square of the sail material that Cristo used for his Gates installation in New York's Central Park in February 2005—my column was running in the New York Daily News then, and I went to report on the project, and city workers were handing out these little squares, I assume to keep resourceful Manhattanites from going at it with shears. Good luck.