But this impulse to collect these books is slightly more complicated: it isn’t just about posturing but about a certain longing. The rustic, the outdated, the handcrafted and antiquated—these things seem ubiquitous. Cucumbers pickled in mason jars line the shelves at Whole Foods, men are buying bespoke suits styled after bygone eras, and hip kids are throwing Depression-era hobo-themed weddings. We’re a generation enthralled by authenticity and craftsmanship.Walter Benjamin wrote that in an era when everything was reproduced, nothing had the aura of originality. Now, most men’s clothing is made en masse—and we find ourselves missing the hand stitched. Likewise, many of our libraries consist only of e-books—and our old paperbacks seem to posses a one-of-a kind personality.
I really loved the piece partly because it reminded me of our upstairs neighbor from when we were kids in Bulgaria. Comrade Tsenkov used his connections to purchase a humongous bookshelf for his living room. The bookshelf hadn't been exactly to his liking mostly because it was too big for his otherwise miniature apartment but given how difficult it was to get your hands on good furniture in the 80s, he decided to go for it. Thing was, though, Comrade Tsenkov wasn't much of a reader so when the bookshelf finally arrived, he went directly to a bookstore and bought out the entire inventory. To fill up his shelves.
P.S. The picture above is of shoppers in a Bulgarian grocery store during the massive food shortage of 1991. Posting to point out that Comrade Tsenkov's choice to purchase the ill-suited bookshelf was not entirely crazy. When you had so little to choose from, you got what you could. Photo c/o Lost Bulgaria.
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