Sunday, 13 March 2011

Book worshipping

I was sitting in the sun outside Cafe Reka today, enjoying a cappuccino and reading the Sunday Star-Times - the perfect lazy Sunday morning. I came across an article by Grant Smithies called Treasure in the margins. The title appealed to the bibliophile in me. However, what followed was truly distressing for a book lover like me. It began with the following admission:
"My name is Grant. I am a book abuser." 
*gasp!*

Of course, I always knew there were book abusers out in the wide world but, much like confessing to being a grown-up and still getting a kick out of pulling the wings off flies, I didn't think it was something anyone would want to be caught doing, let alone openly admitting to!

As a lifelong book worshipper, I see books as objects of beauty, worthy of treasuring and in need of fierce protection. As a child, I was the one who pointed out to librarians that certain books needed some TLC, putting them in a pile to be lovingly repaired with magical librarians' Sellotape (the type that doesn't turn yellow as it gets older).

You can guarantee that after I've read a brand new book, its condition will be immaculate enough for resale without anyone knowing it has already been read by someone. No broken spines, grubby marks or dog ears for me. Heck, I get annoyed when people don't refold a newspaper neatly! I don't like authors (or gift givers) writing messy inscriptions inside the cover and, if I absolutely must label a book with my name, it is hesitantly whispered in pencil.

This somewhat OTT tendency to mollycoddle books means that I am reluctant to lend books to certain people lest they return in less than impeccable condition. (I'm expecting them to return; for those that don't, that's another blog post.) For example, I have a friend who says she likes to see all of the two pages she is reading laid out flat in front of her. "But what about the spine?" I once asked her in a slightly alarmed tone. "What about it?" she replied, clearly bemused. I have mentally crossed her off my 'so-and-so might like to read this book after me' list.

Apparently there is something called marginalia, where scribbles and comments are legitimately left in the margins of books. Sylvia Plath did it. So did Sir Walter Raleigh, among others. If you find a book that has been graffitied by a famous dead person, said book can become incredibly valuable. But surely that still doesn't make it right!

How about you? Are you a book abuser or a book worshipper?  How tolerant are you of the 'other' kind of readers in this world?

3 comments:

Sarah of 'Catching the Magic' said...

Ha, ha! Great post! I love the cartoon of the scribbling pen... But if I caught any of my children doing that there would be trouble!!!

I am definitely a book worshipper and expect the same from my children - but I'm not quite as compulsive a worshipper as you ;) ah... I admit to turning the corner of a page over when I've misplaced a book mark (criminal, I know!!!) - even my daughters tell me off for doing that in their chapter books now!

Kate @ UpsideBackwards said...

I am always incensed at those who feel the need to write in library books. Sometimes they are correcting a typo (sometimes even mis-correcting a non-typo) - but while my eye skims over a typo with only a small pause, a pen or pencil mark on the page only serves to interrupt my reading and draw my eye.
Even worse are the ones who leave editorial comments in the margins!
I didn't even let my children have colouring books for years because I didn't want them to have the idea that they could draw in books!

Alli said...

I'm mostly a book worshipper. I remember my sister borrowing my Grapes of Wrath book in the 9th grade and the way she gave it back to me was horrifying! She just threw it in her locker and let books pile on top of it. I was outraged at the time.

Occasionally I will dog ear pages and I write/highlight if it is required for class but never in personal books.

I have seen blogs talking about a journal you intentionally destroy though which could be a lot of fun. oh, and I don't mind inscriptions in books - that makes it more personable for me. I never thought about other people not liking inscriptions before!