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Booking Through Thursday- Book Wear and Tear

October 30, 2008

Good one from Booking Through Thursday this week: Are you a spine breaker? Or a dog-earer? Do you expect to keep your books in pristine condition even after you have read them? Does watching other readers bend the cover all the way round make you flinch or squeal in pain?

I bet this is going to be a polarizing question.  Have already asked My Westing Game Friend.  I believe he actually shuddered at the thought of a broken-spined book.  I think he will not be lending me books anytime soon.  I don’t break book spines intentionally, I swear!  And I really don’t like the rolling the front cover and pages all the way over curling philosophy.  Even so.  I believe My Friend is planning to buy me copies of his favorite books, or send me sternly to the library, to keep the spines of his books intact.

I actually like borrowing and lending copies of books, and having them come back differently dog-eared, or generally a little rumpled.  As long as they’re still in readable condition where the pages won’t fall out.l  It means that a friend has gone exploring in the rooms and corridors of the same book, picked up on different things, and left a visible trail for me to notice, or to follow.  It helps me share and explore the differences in our reading experiences.  That’s one of the many reasons I love buying slightly battered used books.  They are a little frayed and lived in, mysterious parts of some other life.  I love the mystery of inscriptions.  A copy of The Callahan Chronicals I loan out has an inscription signed “Peace, Love and Elephants.”  When I bought Marilyn Hacker’s collected poems, I found a photo of a young couple and their baby in it.  Who are they?  I don’t know.  I wish they had dog-eared their favorite poems before selling the book.

If I am going to write in a book though, it has to be in pencil, and lightly.  I don’t do it often.  If it’s nonfiction, or a poem that I’m trying to learn from, I’m more likely to underline, or make small dots or exclamation points in the margins  of key lines.  Reminds me of a Billy Collins poem about marginalia- about lonely monks, and the pencil marks of some lonely student.  “Pardon the egg salad stains, but I’m in love.”  I really don’t like food markings left behind in books.  That’s just unhealthy.

Full text of the Billy Collins poem, “Marginalia,” can be found here.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 30, 2008 9:14 pm

    Why write in pencil? Surely you aren’t going to erase it, and pencils smear and blur with the passage of time. Be courageous! If you choose to write in a book you own, do it in ink!

  2. October 31, 2008 2:35 pm

    I love finding things in the used books I buy. One I bought just recently at a Goodwill Book Store in Texas had a wonderful handmade pressed flower bookmark in it – an extra little gift for my $1.98.

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