Maria Sepa, Milan, Italy
From the celestial sphere, knowledge, immaterial at first, rains gently into the minds of men; from there it falls onto the pages of books; and from there it comes to rest—for a time, at least—in your lap, Maria. That you acknowledge and respect the divine origins of knowledge is evident in the way you've arranged your bookshelves like a halo about your head (like your namesake, you are truly a Madonna of the book), and in your fuzzy red slippers, plainly the creation of an ennobled mind. I've no doubt you devote your days to writing or teaching—your way of sending back to the heavens all you've received.
John and Jana Remy, Irvine, California:
Dear John and Dear Jana,
It’s a gray day here in New York City, and I can’t tell you how your shelves have brightened it. First of all, I love that each of you e-mailed me this picture, without, I’m assuming, knowing that the other had. I don’t want to disappoint you, but I have very little critical to say. Normally, when I see a library arranged by color I wonder a bit about the owners: do they think that books are merely decorative? And, if so, do they not know that books look great not arranged by color? And do they not realize that any strict organizational system in a home library seems controlling? In your case, though, I don’t wonder any of those things. Your bright and cheery arrangement is perfectly suited to where you live—what in New York would feel twee seems organic in California. Also, your books sort of lean peacefully into each other in a way that says, Yes there’s order here, but not too much. The titles on your shelves—lots of sci-fi, lots of fantasy, lots of religious history and theory—tell me that you’re dreamers and feelers (dare I say seekers?) first. Your arrangement is not the product of over-thinking, and the bits of clutter here and there back this up.
Bill Moss, New York, N.Y.
Bill, I adore New York City, and I adore you because it’s clear that you too adore New York City. Moreover, you’re that particular breed of New Yorker which many of us transplants aspired, wisely or not, one day to become. You romanticize New York City out of such proportion that you send a black-and-white photograph of a room decorated with a black-and-white photograph of Paris, but not a photograph you took yourself—an art poster in a black metal frame (this is a quintessential Upper West Side decorating technique, for readers farther afield). Three crystalline liquor bottles glint in the sunlight refracted by a chrome lamp. The dog, white and clean and smiling, a departed friend, perhaps, now a faithful watcher of the bookshelf—bookshelves being as crucial to the New Yorker’s interiors as asphalt is to his exteriors, the scaffolding erected around the cathedral of his cultural identity…