If I had a collar, I’d turn it to the cold and damp. Yes, I’ve been humming “The Sound of Silence” again. Yes, libraries hum. A kind of dusty hum, but a sensitive ear should be able to pick it up. Listen for it next time you’re in a library.
Where was I? The cold and damp. Luckily I don’t have to go out into it. LW does. She has to go to work and other places. And walking to work often takes her through the Park.
She exits the Park near the Plaza and typically stops to gaze at the Bergdorf show windows on the next block. Lately she had avoided this route, fearing she would miss their holiday displays.
But this week, she found herself once again by the store, and she looked. And there, in the windows—Oh, Joy in the Morning—she saw Books! Lots of books! And a few mannequins (who cares?). But oh, those books. Here’s what she saw.
In case you can’t see them well, these books are mostly from the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s. A few are from the ‘60s. They seem to have been chosen for their color and old-school graphics, which have been enhanced by those clear acetate covers favored by antiquarian booksellers.
Their quality as actual reading material varies. She scribbled down the titles of a few of them, and you can probably make out a few more. Excuse My Dust by Bellamy Partridge. The Second Mrs. Draper by Noel Pierce. Cheaper By the Dozen by Gilbreth and Carey. Pearls Before Swine by Margery Allingham. Bad Girl by Vina Delmar. Great Horse Stories in Truth and Fiction. Ride ‘Em Peggy by Elisa Bialk.* Where to Dine in ’39 –200 Recipes by Famous Chefs. The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag by Jim Corbett.
LW loves curated books, even as odd a lot as those chosen to decorate store windows. The carefully selected books of a small literary bookshop, the bedside books set out for a guest, the “take one-leave one” books of an outdoor mini-library or the books in lobbies of old hotels—she is seduced by them all.
These store window books reminded her of the latter (being a devotee of old hotels), even though more than a few of them seem to have been borrowed from BG’s small rare books department, which she scouts out now and then. They induced in her a kind of nostalgia for the books Reader’s Digest editors would select for their Condensed Books anthologies, books like My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier or Merry Christmas Mr. Baxter by Edward Streeter.
She was tempted poke her hand through the glass, grab a few books and make a run for it.
“The show window arouses desire by denying the passerby physical access to what the eye can see: it tantalizes the person on the outside of the glass, looking in,” writes Karel Marling. (See my previous post.)
True, that. And I also think an acetate book cover creates its own kind of “window of desire.” Used by rare books sellers to ostensibly protect delicate dust jackets, the shiny covers act as a barrier between book and hand, a kind of veil with a come-hither sheen.
But back to the BG store windows. LW likes the way they reflect the buildings across the street and interact with them.
In this shot, the books seem to turn into windows themselves, or is it the windows that become books? Books and windows both suggest possibilities, mysteries, intrigue. What goes within? Who dwells there?
I am reminded of how LW likes to think of my – OK – our books as a city, a place in which authors or characters might commune after dark. She imagines small people emerging from their book houses to visit friends in other books.
She has even considered cutting out glow-in-the-dark doors and windows to stick on the book spines, so they will resemble a city at night when the lights are off. I’m not sure how I feel about this.
However, I will recommend a lovely children’s book that explores the idea of libraries as cities: How to Live Forever by Colin Thompson.
Find yourself a copy and you, too, might be tempted to create your own Book City. (Below: Don’t you think your library should have a copy of Colin Thompson’s book?)
I close with thoughts of seeing books as windows and windows as books. And this thought: If I could get glass-fronted cabinets for all my books, I might be willing to tolerate some glow-in-the-dark stickers.
*A coincidence: I discovered that Ride ’em Peggy is illustrated by Paul Brown, grandfather of one of LW’s best friends.