Our Shelves are Our Selves

Laying low with a migraine and looking past the hazy globes of light that mar my vision and thinking about looking at the shelves of other people. It used to be only when I walked into the home of someone else, or their office, or in glimpses of strangers (cracking the spines on the train, or in those pockets of space where one waits), that I could see what others were reading. But now, now I can see these spaces, these stacks, these spines through the window of my phone. The glare is bright at night in the dark when I look at what others are reading, when I look at who others are reading. books are an aid to the mind and the heart, and if your shelves only have white authors on them, only have male authors on them, only have straight authors on them, it’s time to rearrange.

For our shelves are ourselves. We must remember this.

take

2 thoughts on “Our Shelves are Our Selves

  1. Yes! Laura, yes. This goes for absolutely everything we read huh? Blogs, magazines, newspapers. The moment we begin reading all of the content from all of the people with identity markers unlike ourselves, there’s a shift, an awakening that happens. I dare us to reach out for those things so very unlike anything we’ve ever reached out for before.

    On Fri, Aug 24, 2018 at 5:04 AM, The Oosterbook wrote:

    > lauraoosterbeek posted: “Laying low with a migraine and looking past the > hazy globes of light that mar my vision and thinking about looking at the > shelves of other people. It used to be only when I walked into the home of > someone else, or their office, or in glimpses of strangers” >

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  2. How do you deal with rasicm in beloved authors? I admire the works of Flannery O’Connor, but the repeated occurances of racial slurs and sentiments makes me sick to my stomach. I want to love her stories, and I guess I kind of do, but at the same time they disgust me. Do you separate the work from the artist? Can we look past the faults and focus on the brilliance? Should we completely disregard her, and Hamsun, and Dickens? Blame it on the different times they lived in? Nothing dissapoints me more than an author I (did) respect using the n-word (or turns out to be a dick to his wife, like Leo Tolstoy). I’m writing this in the middle of the night, I can’t stop thinking about it. I want to immerse myself in my edition of Flannery O’Connor’s Complete Stories, but frankly, it makes me feel like a reactionary second-hand racist shitstain. I’ve read Marlon James’ thoughts on the subject (http://marlon-james.blogspot.com/2009/03/bigots-on-my-bookshelf.html?m=1), but I feel that as I white person it’s not my place to «accept» her rasicm (or rather, accept that her rasicm existed sidelong her excellence). Because I don’t accept it! Thankfully I still have Daphne du Maurier, Virginia Woolf, Toni Morrison, Deborah Levy, Raymond Carver, Ali Smith, Tove Ditlevsen, Sylvia Plath, Olga Tokarzcuk, The Brontës — although this whole ordeal makes me afraid to google them too closely. I don’t expect you (or anyone) to have an answer, but maybe some thoughts? Do you have any dirty favourites you wish you didn’t love? Or just a perspective of some sorts, for when our shelves are not our selves?

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