I sometimes like to complain about the way books are being used as decorations and dead props in Newer York. "Sometimes" really meaning this one time, when I examined the book collection in the faux-bookshop facade of The Eldridge.
More recently, books as unread decorative objects came up in a look at the Williamsburg life of Peaches Geldof. And then there's that whole thing where people cover their books in blank kraft paper, rendering them illegible so they virtually vanish into the decor.
While I think every bibliophile expresses parts of him or herself in a book collection, what happens when that book collection is blank or designed to go unread or made up exclusively of glossy coffee-table books? In that case, books seem to serve as hollowed-out, mirroring narcissistic extensions.
Another prime example just caught my eye.
The Meatpacking District's Caledonia is being sold as "zen luxury" on the High Line, offering condo buyers and renters "The warmth of home. The cool of west Chelsea." The warmth is provided in part by the presence of a library, "a literary backdrop" they call the Assouline Culture Lounge.
On street level, the windows of the Culture Lounge are covered with quotes from literature's greats: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and a whole lot more. The carpet of the lounge is printed with letters in various fonts. So you might think this is a place to read written words, those things made from arrangements of letters. But from what I can discern, you won't find any of those quoted writers' works at the Culture Lounge.
That's because the books here are provided by Assouline, "the first luxury brand in the world that has used its publications as medium." They have a boutique in Dubai and another just opened in the new Plaza condo. Some of their books come wrapped in Chanel and Coach leather jackets.
Their subjects cater to the affluent and the aspirational. A few sample titles: Megalomania: Too Much Is Never Enough; High Society: The History of America's Upper Class; and A Privileged Life: Celebrating WASP Style.
A couple of taglines: "New York was vulgar, flashy and vibrant" and "Megalomania: excess, folly, splendor, vulgarity."
Barbie book: $500 (includes masks)