Fire! or: On the Dangers of Instagram Vanity

Here's a story on how I risked my life to create the perfect Instagram post.

If, like me, you have a social media account, you might sometimes gaze in wonder at the posts of others. Take a look at the book section of Instagram, for instance (aptly titled #bookstagram). There you can find pictures of books and cups of coffee. Or of bookshelves and plants. Or a stack of books. Or a combination of these things. I often gaze at them and wonder why my posts aren’t that perfect. But yesterday something happened which made me realise I will never (and should never aspire to, if I want to stay alive) be a successful influencer. Want to know what I went through? Read on!

Coming up with the idea for this one was easy: I wanted my picture to look like the poster of the Netflix hit series The Queen’s Gambit. I only noticed the bottles on the poster after I had taken this picture and thought myself incredibly clever for adding them.
I really like this picture. The book I discussed is about William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, with the famous scene in which Hamlet holds a skull and ponders life.

The pictures I post on my blogs tell a story, rather than show off how pretty my books are. While reading a book and writing about it afterwards, I always have some idea on the picture I want to take to accompany my words. Sometimes the idea is really easy, because I draw inspiration from the book cover, a film poster, or a famous photograph – but the hard part about that is that these pictures have to be just right, and that might take a while. The hair needs to look good (and oh, that’s not as easy as you might think!), my clothes have to be pretty, and I need to incorporate the book in such a way that it’s funny, rather than forced. I was quite satisfied with the one on the right, for instance.

Honestly, folding these boats, and cutting out these women took me way too long – and I’m not even sure I managed to convey the feminist message of the book I discussed in this post
Fahrenheit 451 is about the burning of books, which happens in order to prevent people from asking questions. Instead, they watch tv all the time and remain stupid. This picture was taken in front of my tv, which was playing a fireplace video. I loved the irony of it.

Often, I pick a theme for the books I’m discussing, and I try to take a picture which reflects that specific theme. This is a bit more challenging than the other type, since I have to come up with the idea all by myself, but I do have some more artistic freedom with them. I often take a look at my bookshelf, or my collection of paraphernalia, or clothes, or whatever, and decide on a picture based on that. Sometimes my boyfriend helps me out with these, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that. There’s such a massive difference between the pictures he takes and the ones I do, because he actually knows how a camera works. I don’t. Also, the pictures I take on my own tend to be a bit more amateurish and silly. I like to think that’s not a problem, since I focus on the story I’m trying to tell anyway.

Sometimes, however, I want to show the world that my pictures, taken on my own, can be just as pretty as everyone else’s. And that, dear reader, is something I should never do again. Yesterday, as I was finishing my post on The Binding, I decided I wanted to use some sheets of paper, because it’s such an important theme in the book. I would take three pictures: one with some blank sheets of paper, then one with some written pages, and a third one. And the third one is where everything could have gone completely, utterly wrong.

The third picture was supposed to be very pretty, because I wanted to use burnt paper for it, to illustrate the importance of burning books in this novel. Enter Elke, who is so clumsy that she can’t even burn paper properly. The first corner went really well; it burnt beautifully, and I was quite happy with it. I wasn’t satisfied, however, with just one burnt corner, which was why I decided to put my match to the centre of one of the sheets of paper. That was when disaster struck. Instead of burning a tiny hole in the paper, the entire thing caught fire. I tried blowing out the flame, but unfortunately that only made matter worse. I still had the piece of paper in my hand, which had by now turned into a huge ball of fire, and I started to panic. I would burn down my entire flat and lose my entire collection of books! The entire block would explode! We would all die! I ran to the kitchen, determined not to drop this flaming thing formerly-known-as-paper, but I was terrified that it might burn my hand, leaving me unable to write down anything for the next couple of weeks.

Thankfully, I made it. I dumped the ex-paper in the sink, opened the tap, and made sure the fire was extinguished. It had turned into a pulp. The whole house was scattered with ash, and it smelt like I had been barbecuing for three days straight. It left me with only two sheets of paper, and two options: I could either decide not to burn the rest of the paper, or be very stupid and try it again. Of course I picked the latter. Armed with a wet cloth, I managed to burn my two pieces of paper without making it look like a repetition of the fire of Alexandria. I took a picture, added it to my blog post, and published it. What do you think of the final result?

Actually, I don’t think it’s that pretty. I did decide to use this picture, however. It will forever remind me of the time that I realised I would never be known for my awesome photography skills, and that I would have to come to terms with that. And, actually, it also inspired me to share this story with you. Please remind me never to use fire again, even if that means it will never turn me into a world-famous Instagram babe. It will be the death of me.

Do you think it’s worth risking your life for a pretty picture? How do you take your Instagram-worthy pictures? Please let me know in the comments! Also, don’t forget to follow me for more book-related posts (and awkward pictures)!


  1. I’d say a picture can tell more than a thousand words. And some photographers are willing to risk their lives to take a picture they consider perfect or absolutely necessary. So, yes, why not burn your house down for a picture? :D. As long as the picture is worth the trouble, of course.


  2. Lieve Ellie, wat een verhaal. Het lezen van een Engelse tekst gaat mij steeds soepeler, en zie alles gebeuren wat jij omschrijft. I enjoy it.

    Liefs, your mum

    Liked by 1 person

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