Flat White

No, you can’t judge a book by its colour

1 April 2020

5:08 PM

1 April 2020

5:08 PM

One of the tell-tale signs of the onset of Coronavirus Cabin Fever is that you start noticing the home office background bookshelves in Skype social-distancing (SocDis) media interviews on cable TV.

After 18-hour days of sitting in front of the plasma wall in PJs watching “the greatest crisis ever to befall mankind” unfold live 24/7 on Foxtel, you start to ignore the talking head with streams of techno-cerumen dripping from their ears in the foreground, and concentrate instead (head tilted 45 degrees) on the fascinating book spines backdrop behind the ears.

In my Boomer youth, three flying ducks and a print of Mary Queen of Scots sufficed for my lounge room wall backdrop. But nowadays, it is de rigueur for Millennial media talent talking heads to surround themselves with a display wall of scholarly – or not – books as testament to their profundity, wisdom and wokeness. 

Enter Maya Goodfellow, writer, researcher academic and occasional Sky News UK Press Preview contributor.  


Maya is a perfectionist. Not for her the higgledy-piggledy, chaotic cacophony of books arranged sequentially by either alphabetical order or natural selection to display their polyglot spines to the world – but strictly segregated bookshelves in the tight confines of the seven monochromatic colours of the light spectrum. 

Above Maya’s right ear (stage left), black, red and yellow spined books in descending order. And above her left ear (stage right), a similar distribution of whites only, dark blue and following sky blue covers. 

This obsessively curated monochromatic fascism hits you like a sledgehammer. Here the medium is the message and the message is that Maya is in control of what you can see of her colour-coded bookshelf and personality. 

The observant inquisitor in PJs can no longer squint to read the books and their titles with your head at 45 degrees. Now you can only see the palate of colours of the books’ covers swallowed in a rainbow of disillusionment. 

Character assessment of the foreground is negated by the colour camouflaged background. 

Bring back the flying ducks and Mary Queen of Scots I say. 

Terence Maher is a former editor of the Melbourne Times.

Illustration: Flickr.

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