“I lived in that apartment with over a thousand books. They had originally belonged to my Uncle Victor, and he had collected them slowly over the course of about thirty years. Just before I went off to college, he impulsively offered them to me as a going-away present. I did my best to refuse, but Uncle Victor was a sentimental and generous man, and would not let me turn him down. ‘I have no money to give you,’ he said, ‘and not one word of advice. Take the books to make me happy.’ I took the books, but for the next year and a half I did not open any of the boxes they were stored in. My plan was to persuade my uncle to take the books back, and in the meantime I did not want anything to happen to them.
As it turned out, the boxes were quite useful to me in that state. The apartment on 112th Street was unfurnished, and rather than squander my funds on things I did not want and could not afford, I converted the boxes into several pieces of ‘imaginary furniture.’ It was a little like working on a puzzle: grouping the cartons into various modular configurations, lining them up in rows, stacking them on top of another, arranging and re-arranging them until they finally began to resemble household objects. One set of sixteen served as the support for my mattress, another set of twelve became a bedstand, and so on. The overall effect was rather monochromatic, what with that sombre light brown everywhere you looked, but I could not help feeling proud of my resourcefulness. My friends found it a bit odd, but they had learned to expect odd things from me by then.
Think of the satisfaction, I would explain to them, of crawling into bed and knowing that your dreams are about to take place on top of nineteenth-century American literature. Imagine the pleasure of sitting down to a meal with the entire Renaissance lurking below your food. In point of fact, I had no idea which books were in which boxes, but I was a great one for making up stories back then, and I liked the sound of those sentences, even if they were false.”
Paul Auster, Moon Palace (1990).
Never mind their authenticity, I like the sound of those sentences very much, too! No doubt the way books are used as furnishings in this case is rather quite different from the usual idea we have for using books to furnish a room. Still, I must say that this unconventional way of putting books to good use is no less appealing, if only for the world of imagination that it opens up to us, as implied by those delightful sentences.
How well are your books serving you? 😉