Thursday, July 12, 2012


Normally the heat of summer would drive the masses to the beach to cool their bodies in the refreshing surf and drown their minds in the summer’s biggest pot-boilers but the extreme heat of this summer has pushed many of us into the cooler air-conditioned corners of our homes where we can curl up with that same book and avoid the sweat and sunburn of this massive heatwave. Besides, global warming has added another ten degrees to the water temperature so it isn’t all that cool there anyway, and what about all those sharks.
Here are some of my favorite home libraries:
There’s something about the security of small spaces. Animals, by nature, gravitate toward them. Dogs will curl up under a sheltering table. Cats will hide in a cardboard box. Humans, on the other hand, profess to a motto of bigger is better but I’m not so sure we all really believe in that. The sheltering nature of this enclosed library has always been very appealing to me. There’s something very inviting about a space where I could be surrounded by my favorite authors sharing the music I liked to listen to without the snide comments from a sarcastic teenage daughter or a partner who’d rather listen to Dwight Yoakum than the Bombay Dub Orchestra.
There are numerous approaches to home libraries but if I was to establish a far right and then a far left approach I think these two spaces illustrate the dichotomy. There are those of us who have a place for everything and everything has its place. Neatness is one of God’s most precious gifts and damn the person who fails to use a coaster or doesn’t remove their shoes before they cross my front door. I could read a book here but I doubt I’d allow myself to drape a leg over the arm of that pristine chair while I read.
On the other hand there are those far less concerned with order and more attuned to comfort. As far left leaning as I may be this may be a little to far to the left for even me. If there were a comfy chair available I’d enjoy my book here but I’d probably stumble out of here with bits of dark chocolate melded into the fabric of my shirt and an embossed book cover pattern embedded into my right cheek where I feel asleep on against one of those dust piles of earthy smelling books
Celebrities have some of the most impressive and grandest libraries on record. They can afford it. Two of my favorites, and for very different reasons, are Diane Keaton’s Spanish Colonial Revival inspired library and Karl Lagerfeld’s ode to the printed page. In Ms. Keaton’s library, (I believe the house has since been sold and she has moved on) which is also the entry to the house, the walls are lined with books about the visual arts – her passions. There is a groin vaulted ceiling capping off the room. The vaulted ceiling then sets on a quote embracing her philosophy, “The Eye Sees What the Mind Knows”. I could spend a great deal of time here thumbing through her collection.
In Mr. Lagerfeld’s library one has to be impressed with the volume of his volumes. I don’t know how many years an average human has to his life but I doubt the ability of anyone to get from one end of his library to the other before rigor mortis would set in. It still would be a happy death.
Sometimes a library is only a small corner in a room with personal items and a series of books that one can actually manage to read and become familiar with in a lifetime. This particular client of ours lives a simple life and the artifacts of his corner library paint a picture of the man who actually reads these books.
What young reader wouldn’t be enticed into a journey of reading with a library as interactive as this one? I have no idea of how this chain and sling work but I’d bet even the most hyper-active of kids would agree to reading a few pages for a chance to swing through this library.

Most people end up shelving their books by size, if it fits on the shelf that’s good enough for them. Some of us may be a bit more anal. I know I, at least, try to categorize my collections. I know others who do more of a Dewey Decimal System or alphabetize their tomes. But there are a few who have come up with more design inspired solutions to storing their books. Here are a few for you contemplate:
I find shelving by color to be very amusing. The look can be terrific if you are fortunate enough to have found books with spines of many colors, but I find it hard to remember titles by their pantone jacket color. At last year’s Dining by Design in New York Benjamin Moore did a room were the walls were lined with books. Each book had a dust jacket in a specific Benjamin Moore color and the spine identified the color. Now there it worked.
Another great trick is to buy books whose jackets match your d├ęcor. This works when the look of the room is more important than the content of the reading material. Now mind you I’m not against this. This can make for a beautiful room and how many books can one person read anyway. And besides, you could always drop a Kindle E-Reader into the drawer on the bedside table.
When you’re tired of the messy look of all those miss-matched spines you can chose one of these two ways to clean up the unattractive look of actual books. You can take all your books and make your own dust jackets out of newsprint or parchment. This gives an even non-confrontational look to any space. You can also hide all those titles you’re not so sure you want any of your far-right Christian relatives to see.
And if this technique is too time-consuming you can do what this inventive reader did. Take all your books and turn them backwards so all you see is white and off white of the page edges. Either of these ideas give you the uniformity you were looking for, they just make find what you’re looking for a little more difficult when you can’t quit remember where you hide your latest guilty pleasure.

Fate and faith are difficult concepts for some of us to wrap our heads around. My most recent summer reading has had a very personal link between these two concepts. I’ve never been a very strong follower of organized religion yet I’m probably one of the most secretly superstitious people I know. I have so many rituals I’d need pages to identify them all. Things like if I don’t make my bed in the morning the whole day is going to be ruined. If I wear a particular watch and the day goes well I’ll continue to wear that watch until its magical good charms wear off. I’d never pick up a penny off the street if it wasn’t heads up and any itchy palm, a supposed indicator of incoming money, will put a huge smile on my face. The list could go on and on. A few weeks ago a local paper was running a competition for Madison’s “Best”. They provided an online ballot for readers to vote in several categories. We needed some additional publicity so we sent out an email blast to our mailing list asking for all our readers to vote for Pleasant Living. We cast a wide net sending out as far as the Netherlands and Italy. How was the Isthmus going to know where our customers might come from? One of the emails landed on the facebook page of a friend in upstate New York and that got passed on to another friend who we had lost contact with several years ago. That friend, Mary Lou Quinlan, wrote a note to our daughter on our upstate friend’s facebook page and that’s how it got back to us. Mary Lou has recently written a book, “The God Box” and as fate would have it Mary Lou was gong to be at our Westside Barnes & Noble the following week for a book signing. The book is a story of faith, the belief in a God’s power to listen to our problems and struggles and take care of them no matter how big or small. After her mother’s death, Mary Lou and her family discovered a series of boxes filled with scraps of paper, each with a plea to God to help with such diverse requests as helping Mary Lou and Joe pick out the right flooring material for their country home to pleading for a cure for her mother’s rare form of blood cancer. It was a remarkable way of dealing with the stress of life through faith. The intersection of fate and faith brought us back together again and for that I am very grateful. You can pick up the book at your local Barnes & Noble or through Have faith that fate will see you through the big and the small.

John Chervinsky, photographer
Represented by Michael Mazzeo  Gallery

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