Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Aside: Now that was a good book! The Pleasures of Reading Dilapidated Books

Finished the novel at the local Tim Horton's & took a snapshot. It'll soon be in my recycling bin.

Recently I've been rummaging through books I've been hanging onto only because I want to read them. Most of these I've obtained as rejects from an annual book fair at which I volunteer, while others came from odd, random sources, including found lying in the streets. These books are so beaten I have no wish to keep them, nor to pass them along, no matter how rare they might be. (With the exception of Joan Samson's The Auctioneer, which, despite its dilapidated condition, I gave to a colleague I knew would appreciate the read and not mind the state of the book. A rare quality.)

In some cases I tear off and keep the cover. Either the cover is in surprisingly good condition (as was the case with The Other), or the edition is an old one, or I simply like the cover. Years ago a friend confided that she tore the covers she liked off old paperbacks in order to make boxes. At the time I was appalled: why would someone willingly ruin a book? But in cases where the book is already ruined beyond repair, I have come to realize that keeping the cover is, in its own way, a continuation of the use and memory of that book.

Besides the logical reasoning of this practice of hoarding torn books, keeping covers and recycling the rest, there exists a guilty pleasure I have recently come to acknowledge.

Since I was a child I was taught (rightfully) to respect books and treat them well. "Books are among my best friends," my lovely mother used to say. No matter their age, current state or to whom they belonged, I treated books with respect. I have always been careful even with library and school books. I do not eat while reading and am very careful with my coffee or tea, which I enjoy in the evenings while I read at home or in coffee shops.

Yet this recent practice of reading torn books has come with an unexpected sense of relief. Being  careless with these books, I feel that I am somehow letting go, dropping that rigid, near obsessive care with which I have always treated all books. Instead of the book itself, I can focus on the content. (Actually, I genuinely enjoy the combination and frequently a good edition can enhance the reading experience.) Rather than feeling guilt in damaging these already damaged books, I am instead receiving pleasure from stuffing a paperback into my back pocket, folding pages over as I read, and even carry a pencil with me as a threat of underlining! In short, I have become mad.

Yet before handling these books with careless abandon, I had already decided they were slated to leave me via a blue plastic sac, properly sorted with other paper products. Not as useless, perhaps, as that torn envelope, but like a cracked glass, they have served their usefulness and can continue being useful by being transformed back into pulp.

Not to mention I own too many books, and looking into moving soon, need to begin clearing out the house.

Other recent crumpled, coverless books read:

The Auctioneer, Joan Samson
Shogun, James Clavell
Digits and Dastards, Frederik Pohl

1 comment:

George Wells said...

Re: Hound of the Baskervilles by Doyle...someone could do a compare and contrast wit Lycanthrope by Eden Phillpotts.

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