Now that the galleys of Fellow Mortals have arrived and I’m holding real-live copies of a novel I wrote, I wanted to thank my editor, Emily Bell, who believed in me and my book and made this possible. A number of months ago, I came across a private-commission bookcase I thought was great (you can see the original here). It’s crooked and looks like a drawer sinking into the floor or tabletop, with the illusion that the bottom books are also sinking into the surface. I thought a small version of such would make a terrific, personal thank-you gift.
I had some pieces of old maple from my wife’s aunts, who’d been using the wood as storage shelves but didn’t need it anymore. Cutting angles is always tricky for me since I don’t plan ahead but rather wing it. This typically leads to stupid mistakes and wasted wood, but I get the job done eventually.
I began by measuring a standard hardcover book to determine the proper depth and width of the bookcase, and then I cut the bottom and top to size and started on the sides. I went with a 15-degree cut, a more conservative angle than what was used in the private commission, because I worried the case would tip if the angles were too severe. After some trial and error on the height of the bookcase’s sides, I liked what I had and used wood-glue and nails to put it together.
Next I cut a border around the base. This was slightly higher than the bottom piece of wood, and it adds to the illusion of the sinking books since you can no longer see the base directly; it just looks like a square hole surrounded by trim. I added a plywood back, and that’s where I made the most mistakes cutting because it was such an unusual shape, and I wasn’t paying attention when I measured, and it was a classic case of Dennis at Work. But then I got it right and proceeded to the final step: trick books.
I didn’t want to destroy actual books, because I like books, and my editor and her publishing house would view it as sacrilege, and using real books was needless anyway. I cut some scrap wood into the wedge shapes I needed and glued a pair of old dust jackets around them. Then I nailed the wedges together and secured them to the base of the bookcase.
In the final photo, the bottom two books are false and the others are real. My editor can use whatever books she likes and the whole thing is small enough to fit on a table or desk. I’m mailing it to her today.