#828: Unread

August 11th, 2017


Happy Birthday. I hope you have a good one. It’s nice you won’t have to work.

I hope you enjoy the book and remember your sister while your reading it. I love you. Enjoy your birthday.

Love your sis,


I put the spray-painted copper copy of “Clear and Present Danger” back on the shelf in the fake child’s room. It slid easily between similarly coppered copies of “A Monetary History of the United States 1867-1960” and a Tom Clancy’s “Without Remorse” that, based on a stamp on the title page, once belonged to a dentist from Santa Rosa, California.

I was in a furniture store so fancy it had valet parking. It’s a Restoration Hardware too posh even for that posh chain. Taking up five floors of displays, fake rooms and a real wine bar in the former Three Art Club of Chicago building in the Gold Coast, the store goes by RH.

In a way, this story is about fake rooms. The store is set up like the most poorly laid-out home in American history. One floor is room after room of bedrooms for children and teenagers. Another floor is just modern interiors. The rooftop terrace is lined with patios encircling and enshrining the historic arts club.

So they’re fake rooms, laid out and designed for fake people. But that’s not the story.

The story is the books.

The display books in the fake room for fake twins who share a fake bunk bed were all spray-painted copper, a fitting aesthetic for a world where all the books come in the same color. Other rooms had old law books painted black, Jim Belushi autobiographies painted an off-white the color of a palomino’s tail.

Dick Francis mysteries shared space and color with antiquated textbooks. Celebrity tell-alls were, as far as the fake people who lived in these nonsensical non-rooms cared, interchangeable with financial reports and gimmicky humor wares.

One display by a staircase had six identical copies of a Henry James biography, all with new white covers pasted in cloth over the real text.

No one will ever read these books. No one will ever enjoy, hate or tire of these pages. The sister’s note, vanished to the city. The dentist’s stamp, gone from the world.

The passersby who stroll the store with an eye for design and a flute of champagne will never know if these books are good or bad, if they were given as loving presents or picked up at airports to kill the hours.

It was heartbreaking in its realism, a parody of a satire of a reminder that this is how books are used. Even if these particular texts that someone took the time to fill with verbs ended up sold to Books By The Foot or some other company that stocks the restaurants, showrooms and other fake libraries meant to connote intellect, seeing books consigned to decoration made me unaccountably sad.

An unread book is an unnerving thing, and a jarring reminder for someone who wants to write.

Even success doesn’t mean your words will ever be known.

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You are currently reading #828: Unread by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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