Our bookshelves are made of gorgeous WA jarrah and - thanks to the low-shine satin finish - they give off a subdued but distinctive glow between the rows of books and the golden pheasant (everyone asks about the stuffed pheasant) and the black graphite coloured hi fi. These reddish modular bookshelves are a work of high craft. They stand floor-to-ceiling in the main lounge and a ledge-space lower in my study - custom-made for our apartment by Jim of Xilo Furniture.
Jim designed and fitted them with enough modular flexibility for us to design (within his design) the shelf positions we wanted. Which also means we can change the shelving arrangement when or if we feel like it. It is deeply pleasurable to stand and admire them, and I do, regularly. They cost us about the same as a small second-hand car but they will be running as sweetly in twenty years. No maintenance. No accidents. Minimal drunk driving.
Bookshelves are essential for a writer and are allowed as an outright tax deduction by the Australian Taxation Office, or they can be slowly written off for years in the Depreciation Schedule. Ditto for the books. In our case, all two and a half thousand of them. This is enlightened and almost amazing. But a writer needs a library and over the years an obvious worldly irony asserts itself regardless: as the resource value of books increases, their monetary value tapers away to nothing. I sit in front of the main shelves and experience the endless immensities of these books for hours every week and never consider the money fading from them. There are however a few books that I hesitate to pick up because I know they will split apart - their glue has dried fatally; and some other books are too dusty for my nasal susceptibilities; and there are books on the shelves that refuse to interest me now, or in the past, but they might (who knows?) in the future, and so they are kept regardless.
The lounge is the more public book space – novels, biographies, general knowledge, dictionaries. In my study the book are more likely to be poetry (funny, that), art, theory and ... cookbooks. The latter only there because they need the deeper shelf I had made in my set-up for art books and vinyl records, though given that cooking comes second to writing in my daily life, it is perhaps fitting those books rest in my inner sanctum. I cook mainly from memory and invention, it has to be said but still, by appropriateness...
I can honestly claim going to these bookshelves several times every day. They are as visited as the kitchen and more visited than the shower. I read from them more often than I brush my teeth – and I am a regular brusher. They are arranged... ah, yes, everyone has an interest in this... NOT alphabetically, but in big groupings: novels from Britain, from Europe (each area, Russian fiction say, in sub-groups), the US, Australia. Books about ideas, politics, sociology, all together. Biographies together, with taller ones (why are biographies so tall?) on the same shelf and all books positioned according to height as well (tall books on higher spaced shelves). This can be tricky, though, a tall book sometimes hard to place in its proper group...
I reckon on knowing where everything is and I’m not bad, depending on how often my eye scans and re-news my visual memory of any grouping.
Everyone asks about the stuffed pheasant.