Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Do Unto Others' Books As You Would Have Them Do Unto Yours

I got a kick out of this essay in the New York Times Book Review about the rough treatment of books. Aside from underlining passages in most of what I read up until I was 26 or so, I've always treated books so gingerly that it borders on the pathological. There have been a few times when people simply didn't believe I had read a book in my library, because it still looked like it had just arrived from the press. I have one friend (hi, SLD) who would borrow books from me, and I would sternly advise her as to how I expected them to be treated while in her care. Despite my clearly (and annoyingly) stated desires, the books often returned with folded pages, marginalia, and contorted spines. I believe one of them had been dropped in the bath. She's a terrific reader in all the ways one can be, so in that case I think my exasperation was also fueled by some sense of inferiority -- that my soft handling of books was part of a deeper problem of not fully wrestling with them. I've become less protective over the years, partly because I think some level of wear and tear is proof of having properly used a book and partly because semi-frequent moves have meant packing and nicking things no matter how hard I tried to avoid it.

I didn't mean to ramble like that. You should read the short essay I linked to above. It includes good stuff like this:
The most rococo act of book abuse is something I have performed only once — and it is a great deal more difficult than countless movies would have one believe. To excavate a hiding place for valuables within the pages of a thick book takes a sharp scalpel, a strong arm and a surprising amount of patience. I had hoped to cut a hole with the exact outline of the object to be hidden — not, sadly, a revolver, but something equally asymmetrical. However, slicing page after page with uniform precision proved beyond me, and all I could manage to gouge was a rather forlorn rectangle.


Post a Comment

<< Home