Monday 16 September 2019

How to be a 'Tome Raider' like Gwyneth? Join the Wine club

Thatcher Wine is a name that was widely unknown until the other day, but which will probably soon become ubiquitous, like Marie Kondo.

He's a lover and collector of books, is this Thatcher Wine, but he's becoming famous as the Personal Book Curator hired by Gwyneth Paltrow to choose the books for her shelves.

I quote from a recent feature on the man in Town & Country magazine, which reports on the book trends that they are seeing now, in the homes of people like Gwyneth Paltrow: "Publishers like Taschen, Phaidon, and Rizzoli are making these gorgeous oversize books on art, design and architecture. I think people are collecting those as an alternative to looking at screens. The Stoic philosophers are having a moment now..."

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Ah, the Stoic philosophers are having a moment now...

Wouldn't it be great to be one of those people who can say with a straight face: "The Stoic philosophers are having a moment now."

What they don't say, is that the practice of rich people bringing in someone to organise their bookshelves is one of the oldest tricks in the book, as it were. And while Gwyneth Paltrow is herself an artist, who would have an aesthetic purpose in engaging the services of a curator, there are others who just want to give the impression that they read books, when of course they don't.

I suppose everyone is aware that their bookshelves are saying something about themselves, but mostly what they are saying is that the owner has read these books - not so with Jay Gatsby, who in Fitzgerald's masterpiece has a library full of books that have not been "cut", meaning that the Great Gatsby does not read these books, they are only f or show.

Anyone who spent time in the old library in Lillie's Bordello will also be familiar with the concept of books essentially as a form of decoration, rather than one's passageway into the life of the mind.

And Flann O'Brien was all over this, with his Book Handling Service, inspired by a friend of his ,"a man of great wealth and vulgarity", who had bought a library for his new house.

O'Brien wrote: "Some savage faculty for observation told him that most respectable and estimable people usually had a lot of books in their houses…this is what set me thinking… Why should a wealthy person like this be put to the trouble of pretending to read at all? Why not a professional book-handler to go in and suitably maul his library for so-much per shelf?"

At the top of the O'Brien range you'd find the De Luxe Handling service: "Each volume to be mauled savagely, the spines of the smaller volumes to be damaged in a manner that will give the impression that they have been carried around in pockets, a passage in every volume to be underlined in red pencil with an exclamation or interrogation mark inserted in the margin opposite… not less than 30 volumes to be treated with old coffee, tea, porter or whiskey stains, and not less than five volumes to be inscribed with forged signatures of the authors."

Over to you, Thatcher Wine.

Sunday Independent

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