Notes from a Library Volunteer: Our House

Whilst organizing, reshuffling, and generally digging around in the library at the San Francisco Center for the Book, I found something. Well, actually, two somethings. Two somethings that struck me because of their odd shape, and more pressingly, because their odd shape was shared:

San Francisco Center for the Book

I’m starting a little city

Who knew we had not one but two books in our library shaped like little houses?

The larger yellow one, 11, was the one I found first. It’s a pop-up book, and if a yellow house-shaped pop-up book doesn’t already seem a bit out of the blue to you, here’s the kicker: it’s author isn’t a person but a band. Už Jsme Doma, a progressive rock group from Prague, authored the book as a companion to their album “11, Spring, Hell, Fall, Winter.” The text is in Czech, so I have no idea if the book follows a plot, if it’s a biography of the band, a rant, an ideology, or what. But the illustrations are phenomenal. Every page is a whirling painted hellscape – the RED page of a family huddling around their stove, the YELLOW page of a massive, angry soldier-figure (who may or may not be made up of a thousand smaller men and women). This is not a pop-up book for children.

The other is called I Live Here – a beautiful little hand-pressed book that I came across only this morning while riffling through my “Artist’s Books That Need A Home” section. It’s a brief, sun-dappled description of life on Dolores street:

A house, a garden, a dog lying in the sun

the cars on 101 hiss like the ocean

a tiny tranquil, zen binding space

inside the city within the rat race

followed by a little dingbat of a 1920’s convertible.

What’s so appealing about a house-shaped book? I guess that it’s immediately familiar – though you don’t know what’s going to be inside the book when you pick it up, you know that it has (or rejects, as it seems 11 is doing) a sense of hominess, familiarity, of some sort of shared experience.


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Zoe is a student at Reed College, and an amateur playwright. During the summer of 2013 she is a volunteer at SFCB contributing her time and wit to the library and her sorting talents to the California job cases in the print studio.

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