A long time ago, I wrote a very short piece on coffee table books and how they, along with magazines found in waiting rooms, confused the hell out of me. Sometimes you run into one that catches your fancy, but most times coffee table books make me wonder who would ever want to buy one. I always just assumed that’s why bookstores have them sitting out front, heavily discounted. Because they can just make the safe assumption that nobody will run off with one, it’s too cheap and too heavy. Who can blame people too with titles like, “Depressed Cows: Black and White World” or, “Deere John: A love letter from tractors for tractors.” I usually see them when I guest at someone’s house. It makes me feel like they pulled out the good furniture that you’re not supposed to look at too long or it will catch on fire. I sit there with Miss Cobwebs, increasingly concerned that we’re going to become part of the landscape, like a living painting, unable to move in any way. You remember that scene in the opening of Crusaders of the Lost Face Melter when Indiana Jones finds that golden idol in the temple? That’s just a deadly coffee table. I mean, they’re basically the same thing. Heavy, important looking but if you touch the damned thing it kills you on sight. And that’s the coffee table, the books are even worse.
I should consider it a blessing that there’s really no place for a giant rolling boulder in here, not after what happened last time. Here’s the thing, coffee table books only exist in one of two settings and you’re not really supposed to look at them in either case. The first is houses where the living room has officially reached stasis and will never move forward in time from that point. My grandma used to live in a home like that. It had furniture that I never felt like I was allowed to sit on because I was a filthy plebe and the couches were meant for the upper crust adults. I kept expecting men in white lab coats to come in to check the ph and awkward levels and then leave while nobody says a word the whole time. “They’re holding up remarkably well this trial run.” “Yes, inject them with the serum next time.” Even when I had grown up, they still felt like they were off limits as though they would immediately dump me off into a pit of boiling lava and disapproving relatives if I even considered sitting on them. There was also a coffee table book, which I believe was called, “Barren Green Hills of Ireland” or some such nonsense. It was always covered in dust because the dust had nowhere else to hang out in the house and because the rest of the furniture had dust protection. This is not the living room I want, but it all starts with one coffee table book.
The second type of home is a trap. It looks normal but I’m warning you not to be fooled. You know those commercials for stores that sell furniture? They’ve got smiling people and they look like they’ve been lived in. The bookshelves have actual books and knick-knacks, the couches look like they’re meant for sitting and not as some modern art statement on how soft modern society has become. Start looking into the eyes of the people in those commercials and you’ll notice their smiles are a little too fixed, their eyes a little too desperate. Yes, they want you to buy the sofa so they can go home to their family, who are becoming very worried about them. I bet you assumed those were actors. Nope, Ikea goes out in the middle of the night and abducts people who have large outstanding debts to Ikea and they then use them to sell their minimalist Nordic furniture, some frustration required. All those commercials have coffee table books because that’s how they trap people. They put coffee table books out and then their intended victims in and lock the door behind them until they’ve sold enough credenzas, now at a low price of 29.99. It’s like they’ve become furniture geishas or something. Wow, we got really sidetracked there. How does this keep happening? I mean, I’m taking the pills they gave me and…hold on, you finish reading this while I go call a man about a drug. I think that’s how that goes.
The other thing I complained about in that post was magazines in doctor’s offices. Rarely, you get some historical journal or National Geographic and those are pretty much the best magazines you could hope for because they have something for just about everybody. When you boil it down though, most waiting rooms have two types of magazines. Testes or ovaries. Oh, don’t give me that look again you know what I mean. It’s either magazines that have beefcakes flexing on the front cover with advice on how to grow moustaches on each of your chest hairs or its all the latest gossip about celebrities I’ve never heard of and I find myself inching cautiously towards the coffee table book, “Organs and where to find them.” If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a really engrossing read. To be fair, when you’re at the doctor’s office, there’s little that could be more motivating than a magazine article about the latest happenings in “As the world turns” unless you’re getting a root canal or something, and at least that would be quicker. Then you notice the coffee table book that someone brought the doctor for not killing her child in a routine checkup and you give it a once over. Boy, was that ever a mistake. It’s called “Salvador Dali Cats” and the whole thing is just filled with cats melting off of cat trees, porch steps and the like. If that weren’t bad enough, they all have those enormous Salvador Dali moustaches that look like they could take an eye out if used as a weapon.
Run into enough of these things and they’ll start showing up in your nightmares. You might have dreamt before about being chased by an evil clown with a giant dentist’s drill but now you’ll have nightmares of being chased by an evil clown carrying a coffee table book titled, “Dinosaur Cavities”. Who in their right mind made that book and why would anyone think I wanted a copy? I gave it to my dentist. Thankfully, there is a solution to this problem. It’s called re-gifting, and I think it’s kind of expected. Don’t even take the sticker off that proudly proclaims you bought the book for a song because the recipient of your gift will know what’s up. He’ll take the book in his hands, give it a once over with a glazed look in his eyes and then scan the room subtly before returning an embarrassed gaze to you. Mission accomplished! Now I just have to wait until the next housewarming party in order to dump this thing off onto someone else. Oh, nuts to that, this is taking way too long. I’m just going to buy someone a house and then leave the book there before they move in. It’s a dirty move, I know, but this is how urban legends start. I mean, it’s not like I’m building a house with an ancient Indian burial ground under it or something, I’m not a total monster. To sum up, coffee table books are evil and you should never have one in your house for any reason. If you find one, they breed so set your house on fire immediately.