Posts Tagged Lauren Conrad

Books as Arts and Crafts

Even as a devoted fan of The Soup, I never expected to type the name “Lauren Conrad” in this blog. And yet, here goes. Did you see what Lauren Conrad did? If you didn’t, here it is. At least for the time being. The original video is gone, and I don’t know if copies will last.

After the video posted, the internet had a minor conniption fit about it. It’s been pulled apart by the Huffington Post, Gawker, Jezebel, Slate, and even the LA Times. In case the video embedded above gets pulled down, Lauren Conrad, formerly of The Hills and more recently published author under the TeenHarper umbrella, suggests a craft project that involves cutting the spines off books (in this case, Lemony Snicket books) and gluing them to the side of a box. What about the rest of the book? She recommends “You can also keep the pages you’re cutting out for a project later on. I have a wall in my office where I’ve taped a bunch of book pages up there.” Or, I suppose, you can store them in the box.

Decorating with books isn’t anything new. A local used book store that I love to pieces has a side business called Books By The Foot, which sells…books by the foot. For the purpose of filling bookshelves, largely with an eye to the decorative appeal to them. They’re sold by binding variety, color, or size. These are books intended to be looked at, not necessarily read. More destructive to the books are projects like this, books with their covers removed and stacked with their spines inward. Go to your local Restoration Hardware, or almost any other hip furniture store, and you’ll find books with the covers and spines removed, tied back together by twine, and placed into bell jars.

I’m also not going to pretend that hundreds, if not thousands of books aren’t destroyed on a daily basis through the process of remaindering. There’s something visceral about watching the process. Which is where a lot of the negative reaction came from. It doesn’t help that she targeted a series of books that the internet loves. That I love. Look, I thought the series fell apart near the end, I know I’m not alone in that opinion, but these are still books that I intend to have a complete set of when my daughter is the right age for them, that I will gladly read and re-read to her. So, yeah, it hurts to see them cut apart, especially in a video that ends with the request to “share with us the books you’re reading now.”

Why? So you can cut them apart, too?

So, alright, books as a decorative element are nothing new, destroying books is nothing new, destroying books to use them as a decorative element isn’t new. Yes, it hurts to watch them actually cut apart, especially by a former reality TV star.

And I understand wanting to use books as a decorative element. I love my Ace Doubles, and the other bits of classic pulp science fiction I’ve bought over the years, but right now this is how I have them displayed:

Only…less blurry in person. If you’ll notice they’re all on bookshelves, which means the spines are sticking out. Leaving aside Lauren Conrad’s decorating tips, the spines are the least interesting part of most book covers. I’m not going to say there’s no design to book spines, but what I love about these books is the covers. It’s why I wrote an entire post about one of the cover artists. It would be easy to mount some in a shadowbox and hang them on the wall to display to covers, without destroying the books. But I love reading the books, too. I wouldn’t want them not to be accessible. Doubles offer another problem by having two covers to potentially display. Some I have a clear favorite, but how can you choose between covers like the ones to the left and right. Those are flip sides of the same book.

Ace Doubles. Damn hard to find a way to fully display them in a way that isn’t destructive to the book. Don’t worry, I’m not going to start cutting them apart, it just means I’m always looking for some solution.

I understand why, as a bibliophile, it hurts to watch that video. I also understand, as a bibliophile, the aesthetic appeal of books.This isn’t meant to be one of those death-of-print-books articles, but I can’t help but wonder if changes in technology will change the ways we present books. They’ve already become a collection of decorative elements that just happen to be held together into one package. While Lauren Conrad, or her handlers, saw the controversy spurred by her video and took it down, these sorts of crafts projects exist, and many more books are destroyed on a daily basis without any reason behind them. Perhaps, just perhaps, what Conrad did isn’t nearly so bad from than angle. At least some pleasure will come from it. Could those books have been donated to any number of organizations that would provide them for children to read? Certainly. But in the grand scheme of book destruction, one box with Lemony Snicket spines is a drop in the bucket.

That’s not a defense. I don’t like it. I’m certainly not going to do it. It’s an acknowledgement that we book readers are entering a similar phase with our favorite medium that music lovers did. Records are routinely made unplayable in the name of interior design and decoration, and we hardly blink at that. It’s not the death of the book, it’s not the death of reading. It’s just the future of physical media, which I suspect will be increasingly repurposed. I’m not saying don’t care. Caring is fantastic, and I hope that someone has responded to the video above by donating copies of Lemony Snicket books, or other books, to places where they’ll be read. It’s sad. Books will never die as a thing, but this is a clear sign that they aren’t what they once were, a step along a transition. It’ll be a tough one, but it’s unavoidable. All we can do is love our books.

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