I like the notion of the shelf as a selfie, a great, solipsistic exhibition space, but I’m afraid I keep bungling the job of curating it. A good portion of my books are currently divided between the basement of my mum’s flat in Bath, an attic in rural France that I haven’t visited in years, and the cobwebby loft of a house in west London. For some, life is a process of ongoing accumulation and judicious editing. For me it feels more akin to rolling down a hill with my pockets turned inside out, scattering possessions all the way. I hope they eventually catch up when I arrive on level ground.
The matt-black bookcase came with the house we are renting and is altogether too American Psycho for comfort. But at least the contents belong to my partner and I (there are a number of duplications that we have yet to weed out). What books are not shown here can be found piled on the bedside tables upstairs. I love a lot of 20th-century American fiction (Steinbeck and Doctorow, Updike and Malamud), which feels so much richer, warmer and knottier than its British counterpart. I’m also fond of hefty art and photography books and the occasional hardback history lesson. Film books feel too much like work and I tend to avoid them when I can.
The picture on the wall behind the TV set is a screen-print which was given as a gift to my late godmother a few years before I was born. I don’t know the artist, but my godmother taught at an art school and so I’ve always assumed it was produced by one of her students. When I was a kid I used to covet an antique Russian sword which my godmother promised she would leave me in her will. I pictured myself brandishing it in the playground and terrorising local evil-doers. But then, when she died, I realised that I had always loved the picture more. It is, I think, my favourite thing. When I roll down the hill I always hang on to this.
The top shelf is given over to a messy spread of DVDs. These run the gamut from old classics to press screeners to TV box-sets to kids’ cartoons. Many of these discs are wrongly boxed, so we typically spend a good 10-minutes of every day going through them in a rage. The last time I looked, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was attempting to pass itself off as the concluding episodes of Breaking Bad.
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