Obscure Bookcases of Delight


The ever charming (and tall) Inexplicable DeVice in December asked his readers to blog about our bookcases.  I promptly promised to do so and then promptly never got around to doing so.   Inertia: it’s a real thing.

In my defense I should mention I don’t have a bookcase to tell a tale about, I have a collection of them.  In fact, I have at least one in every room that doesn’t have plumbing in it.   They are the result of a happy life; every day after work, R Man and I would settle down, him on the couch and me in my big, comfy chair and the cat dividing her time between our laps and we would read all evening.  Once we moved into tis house with a fireplace, we were really cemented in place.  A byproduct of all that reading, of course, is books, that and the conviction that I had the most perfect life imaginable.

We would always have stacks of books sitting around,  this stack was read, that one was being read and the looming one over there were future candidates.  Occasionally, I would buy another bookcase, scrape up all the stacks and the whole sad cycle would start over.  Thus, multiple bookcases.  And Now a tour of them!


The main, or Wall O’ Books.  We had these built for our apartment on Russian Hills, all those many years ago when we first ran across the stacks and stacks of books that two bookish poofs would create.  Imagine how satisfied we were when we moved here and it fit in the living room.  Secret Agent Fred has moved his work space here from the studio in the garage where it is too chilly for the muse to do much beside sit around eating Doritos and complaining about the dank.


From the oldest to the newest, here we have a little walnut charmer that I picked up for the newest round of overflow, mostly science fiction I’ve been reading since R Man’s death.  It’s in the office, not out of any decorating plan, but simply because it was the last open space big enough for it.  That’s how I achieve all the little exquisite delights in decor.

That photo on the top is one of my favorites ever.  From some long, long ago party in New Orleans, it presents the author, striking in overstretched pink and black tiger strips, on-going malign sprite Cow Queen and the late, oh so lamented Magda, looking as glamorous and fresh as a daisy.  Just a trio of southern belles.


Moving on from the ridiculous to the quotidian,


One of a pair we had built for R Man’s room, it holds mostly his collection of histories of the early christian church.  R Man did not consider himself, particularly, a Christian, but he was fascinated with how the developments, schisms, conferences, and cat fights shaped both the church, Europe and the world.  Fred sleeps in R Man’s when he’s over here and so his books have drifted in as well, thus you have biographies of Van Gogh and Caravaggio snuggling up together.



These two, which flank the TV and are also in R Man’s room are till quite a lot of R Man’s, but they also have a lot of mine, so Barbara Pym, E. F. Benson, Vladimir Nabakov, and James Thurber.  I suspect the William Carlos Williams and Synthesis of Yoga are Fred’s.  The photo Hot Boy is a sign for the Hotel Boyd shot by Fred and showing what good cropping can achieve.  We also have a tasteful box holding the ashes of Fred’s very sweet cat Assisi / Steve.  Lastly, a photo of R Man that would certainly not be on display were he to still have a vote:


Across the hall, we find our guest room, which may be an odd spot for storing one’s books, but space is a premium,  And besides, the guy who owned the house before us built in lots of storage all over the house, including a very sold bookcase in this room


which now holds lots of oddities, mostly paperback, and including the entire collection of the Judge Dee Mysteries.  Have you stumbled across them?  They’re great, set in 17th century China, the setting and insights into how such an utterly alien civilization world is fascinating.  Also, a snow globe of New Orleans.


The carpenter/owner also built a shelf that runs the width of the room about a foot below the ceiling.  I wouldn’t want to hurt the feelings of the collection that wound up there by implying they’re not the most compelling reads we have, but they are certainly not the first ones I reach for on a rainy Sunday afternoon.


In his frenzy of shelving construction, the previous owner built this enormous closet with sliding doors which I, in turn, had covered with wall paper printed to look like book shelves.  and when you open it, you get, drum roll please, BOOKS.


These are all cook books, or as Ms Pym would have it “cookery books.”  Many of them are old favorites I’ve used over and over, some are the great unloved who have never contributed a single recipe.  And now, all of them are pretty obsolete since when I want to cook something I don;t know by heart, I look it up on the internet.


And lastly, not a book shelf per se, and not a gang of books gone rogue, these are my favorites, the creme de la creme.  Benson and Dorothy Parker and Saki and my favorite Sci Fi writer, Lois McMaster Bujold.  And keeping track over them, and me, my favorite picture of R Man.

So that’s what the books of mrpeenee look like now.  I left out the newish stack that might be the seed of a new bookcase, but I also have to acknowledge that although I once was a complete snob about Kindle and other e-readers, but once they made the leap to allow you to read the books on your phone, instead of yet another device, and which I always have with me, well, it looks like the stacks have moved from the floor into my phone.


About mrpeenee

A former bon vivant and terror of a number of New Orleans bars in the mad, gay 1980s, I'm now quietly retired and widowed in San Francisco. I have a crooked nose due to an unfortunate Frisbee accident.

21 responses »

  1. I inherited a friends apartment 23 years ago. He had 4 IKEA bookshelves 7′ x 3.5′ six rows each full of books. I had my books when my husband and I finally moved in together. He had his books as well. Over the last 18 years even more books showed up. A ruff guesstimate is about 700 books. Now I want to get rid of them. Saw an ad in the local paper by someone who was looking to buy libraries. Made contact and he never showed. Think he wanted a bibliography to pick and choose what he wanted. For me it was all or nothing. The books still sit here.

    I discovered my library has a digital book selection. That’s where I’ve been getting my reading material. As well as hard copy books if there isn’t a digital version. I give them money once a year for the thousands of dollars of material I get from them. When I’m done with a book it goes away.


    • 700!!!!!! WOW! When me and my ex split I was left with nearly 250 books he didn’t want. After I had some close friends pick what they wanted, I looked online for booksellers of used books, and one person bought almost all of them, not much, but got them off my hands. Also sold some on Ebay. Good luck with your collection and keep hope.


  2. Very impressive bookcase collection! I especially like the hidden bookcase disguised as a bookcase!

    Does Saki ever hang out on the high room-width book shelf? I know my cats would be scheming to get up there.


    • He does! He thinks it makes him look all ferocious and king-of-the-jungle, lurking up there, Sometimes, if he doesn’t feel like jumping down, he’ll yell at me until I rescue him. Cats.


  3. What a lovely tour darling.!!!!!! You have mentioned some great reading there that I wouldn’t mind doing myself. I would love to read some Parker one day soon. It’s also refreshing to see some still ring a gong to announce dinner. Now where is the smut reading shelved???


  4. Yes ! Please do not step on my hands while I crawl on the floor looking in the shelves, thank you.
    One day I will be able to move into another flat and there & then I will have book shelves only up from the floor. In fact I dream about a band of book shelves going through the rooms in a height of circa 60 centimeters from the ground, the last shelf up to where I can still easily read the titles and pick them.
    I would (have) like(d) to spend an afternoon with R Man (and you, of course) having a drink and talking about history. And Richter Di – van de Wetering (Eng.) wrote a very interesting biography of Robert van Gulik (Eng.).


  5. Oh, wow, what a lot of books and shelves (and other trinkets and treasures) – Don’t ever invite me in as I’ll never leave! I love the ‘Hot Boy’ photo – very clever.
    Thank you for doing this.


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