Looking at Liu Wei’s cityscapes made from old school books, I find myself flooded with a familiar sense of reassurance—of the calm that emanated from the cakey volumes on my parents’ shelves and the delicately preserved archives hidden in libraries. I like these cityscapes in great part because I like old books, and I like seeing things done with them.
Of course, I do have requirements. I wouldn’t want to see old books spliced into wet naps or shredded into lining for a bird cage. Shredded into sentence-sized strips to insulate a special gift, however, I might just get behind.
So. What other ways can we ramp up the nostalgic power and the functionality of our old books?
Aromatherapy. One of the most magical traits of old books is their smell. Part dust, part glue, with a dash of mystery, old books smell like a memory of family dipped in a kind of determined hopefulness. Why not treat old books like potpourri? They've already made the perfume.
Hiding your gun. Faux books have been around for a long time, hiding everything from money to drugs, but don’t you think it’s time to put that revolver in some vintage Chaucer? Or, if you're not the "Just Carry" type, take your precious volumes and chop them into guns. What else are you going to do with that frayed copy of Moby-Dick? Make a gun out of it.
Protection. If you’re not prepared to chisel your old books into guns, they can still be used as weapons. The important part is to keep that stack by your front door to make it easily accessible when you need to clobber somebody. Also, if you don’t want to actually assault someone, you can just give them a stack with overzealous encouragement and expect to never see them again.
Insulation/Wallpaper. Okay. Some of the books in my collection I probably won't ever read again. Once they reach a certain age, I think it’d be a fair and lovely thing to paste them to my walls. True, I have lived in several severe weather climates where I've spent a lot of time blow-drying plastic to my windows. But how wonderful would it be to be surrounded by books, not only with slender spines peeking out from the shelves but entire walls of full covers?
While I'm quite capable of throwing away the most precious and sentimental knick-knacks, there's something about books I have a hard time letting go of. If I can class it up and make some art objects that also act as furniture, I could send fewer boxes off to storage.