Yes. It’s a set of bookshelves that can convert into a coffin. And yes, it’s real. Sure, it sounds like some kind of morbid gag (that we’re all quite enjoying here in the virtual Lit Hub offices, aka Slack), but designer William Warren is taking it very seriously:
When you die, the shelves can be taken apart and reassembled as a coffin. The brass plate under the bottom shelf, that tells the story about this transformation, is then flipped over and your dates inscribed on it.
The more I think about it, the more it makes sense, and the lovelier it sounds. For most people reading this website, physical books occupy a very central place through the different eras of our lives: we lug them around in boxes from apartment to apartment to house (and back to apartment, hi!), finding in them reminders of moments in our lives when we found escape or inspiration or challenge. If you’re like me you find enormous comfort in the continuity of beloved books—so I can understand the resonance of glancing at a bookcase filled with a history of your life measured out in reading and being reminded of the imminence of your own death. I can, honest!
The plans are available for free, here, and I think this might really be the pandemic project I’ve been waiting for… I will report back if I live long enough to complete them.