The Big Issue : Edition 555
THEBIGISSUE.ORG.AU 9–22 FEB 2018 13 PHOTOSBYJAMESBRAUND WE’RE SLOW TO rouse, but I tell you what, you don’t want to piss off a reader. Last year, Lauren Coleman, an English interior design blogger obsessed with neutral tones and off-white colour palates, was dismayed by the “garish” colours of the chick lit titles on her bookshelf. Fair enough. They’re a disgrace. Chick lit covers are a soul- sucking möbius strip of pink, heels, champagne, lipstick and shopping bags. They imply vacuity and fluffiness, and are an affront to the intelligence of the women who read them, and the women who write them. You go, Lauren Coleman. Represent. Not that she was really “representing”. More just hating on the way those hideous saturated pastels were messing with her vision of greige and designer chi. So, she chillaxed her lounge room vibe by turning the books’ spines to the wall – pages out – creating what she describes on her website as a “display backdrop” for, it must be said, some unnoteworthy pastel decorator tat. Giant L&J initials, a straw picnic basket, some white-on-white photo frames. The kind of gear that screams, “I could Airbnb this place with half-an-hour’s notice.” A photograph of said bookcase featured in an edition of UK’s Ideal Home, dovetailing nicely into the hot new Pinterest trend #backwardsbooks, and book lovers worldwide went bin-fire crazy, hating Lauren’s guts on social media. Now look, I’ll not condone the shitstorm that rained on Lauren’s bewildered, neutrals-loving head, and a couple of the insults she received were OTT. But if you read books rather than stack them in artful cream piles and upload the pics to Insta, the #backwardsbooks trend is a red rag. It’s not, ahaha, a neutral act to neuter books. Books are the antithesis of “neutral”. Their only purpose is to engage and communicate. They signify who you are, who you’ve been, » Fiona Scott-Norman (@FScottNorman) is a writer and comedian with book smarts. FIONA The First Rule of Book Club “We’re living in houses where the most stimulating component of the visual landscape is a couch upholstered in oatmeal linen.” and who you want to be. Books don’t fit into your décor, books ARE your décor. A shelf of books says, “I am a reader, this is what I stand for, this is what I believe.” A shelf of books turned to the wall says what? It’s hard to read it as anything other than “screw knowledge”. It’s disturbing symbolism, turning books away so they can’t squawk for our attention. There’s something smug and clueless about using a library – even a modest collection of Kathy Lettes – as a calming backdrop for a driftwood sculpture and pile of cashmere blankets. Turning books spine-in strips them of their power and, worse, renders them unfindable. They become nothing, just another abstract object to be placed just so. Stories abound from vintage booksellers of designers coming in and buying, say, all the green books that match a particular colour swatch. Or the red ones. Or the leather ones. Readers, and I feel I can speak for my people, want to punch these designers on the schnozzola. In some parts of the world, where education is not a given, people are desperate for books. In the West we are so blasé, so fat on surplus, that we can buy books at random and turn them into meaningless designer fodder. We’re living in a post-fact world, with fake news, in houses where the most stimulating component of the visual landscape is a couch upholstered in oatmeal linen. It’s barbarous. Is it the end of the world? Of course not. But you can see the outline from here, nicely highlighted by an off-white backdrop of silenced books.