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Confessions Of A Book Abuser

August 31, 2007

The Chicago Tribune just published an interesting article about the way people treat books. While some people consider books themselves -- not just the information they contain -- to be beautiful objects to be treated with respect, others consider the ideas to be more important and treat the "package" as a disposable shell.

Having read the story, I now feel it my duty to come out of the closet and confess to my book bashing ways. Though I draw the line at book-burning, I really have very little respect for the objects themselves. Herewith, a list of my chief offenses:

1. I'm obsessed with traveling light. So when I'm on the road, I prefer whenever possible to read books in electronic form via eReader on my PDA than lug a bunch of paper around.

2. I have few qualms about giving used books away. I'll even throw cheap paperbacks away on occasion if I need to make room.

3. I use page corners as bookmarks.

4. I have a nasty habit of flicking the corners of pages between my fingers as I read. The more exciting a book, the more ragged the corners.

5. I often write in books. I underline words, phrases and passages of interest and scrawl notes in the margins.

6. When I give someone a book as a present, I always write a message inside the cover.

7. I'm a heartless bender-back of book spines.

8. I often eat and drink while reading. If I drop some butter, jam, tea or wine on a page, I tend to leave it there.

9. If a book is thin enough, I'll roll it up like it's a magazine.

10. I've been known to use a pile of several sturdy hardbacks as a stool. I've even used hardbacks as weightlifting aids, in the spirit of Jack Lalanne, when I can't get to a gym.

11. I've left books out in the rain.

12. Books that people have lent me often look so ragged by the time that I've finished with them that I end up buying the people who originally lent them to me new copies.

13. I use the crisp edges of new book pages to clean dirt from under my finger nails.

I could go on.

Where did I learn this stuff? I'm not proud of my misdemeanors. I've tried to get over the worst of them, but bad habits are hard to shake.

In my defense, there are limits to my crimes. There are, for instance, a number of special books in my collection. I don't mess with these. And one of the sorriest things I ever did, was give a great many of my theatre-related books to a charity store a few years ago. I was in a bit of a desperate situation moving-wise and I had to lighten my load. I regret doing what I did and have been trying to rebuild my collection ever since.

I suppose I do fall into the category of reader that values -- for better and for worse -- the content inside a book more than its cover. I wonder if there's an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)-type class for BAs (Book Abusers) like me?


  • Solving a problem
    A STEPPER goes to a psychiatrist. "Doc, I keep having these alternating recurring dreams. First I'm Bill Wilson; then I'm Bob Smith; then I'm Bill Wilson; then I'm Bob Smith. It's driving me crazy. What's wrong with me?" The doctor replies: "It's very simple. You're BILL and BOB CLONE." [wink] [wink].

    By Blogger Unknown, At September 1, 2007 at 3:32 AM  

  • I have a relationship to books not entirely unlike yours, but I prefer to think of it as a kind of switchy, symbiotic lovefest than abuse.

    I use book marks sometimes, but they get destroyed and lost too quickly, so if it's my book, I am just as likely to dogear the pages.

    I actually love well worn books. When I receive a book from a friend or buy one second-hand, the more battered and cluttered with notes and scratched and so forth it is, the more I feel like the previous owner(s) were likely to have carried the book with them on journeys...on the train, while backpacking...So the owners REALLY wanted to read that book. They didn't want to put it down and leave it at home. They wanted it with them at all times.

    I tape things into books too...For example, I've got a piece of a Chuck Mee play taped onto the inside cover of Anne Bogart's latest book. They belong together.

    neat post, Chloe.


    By Blogger D, At September 1, 2007 at 8:20 AM  

  • I don't feel that I have owned a book if I haven't mark it up in some way. I must dog-ear the pages, I must hi-lite, and I must write my thoughts in the book.

    The book itself is the vehicle with which the / a message is delivered. While it may behoove you to take care of that vessel, the value is in the consuming of the ideas inside. How each consumes is highly individualized.

    I say mark a book up (although I must admit to one caveat: I hate buying used college books because they are marked up beyond recognition).

    Michael Rice
    The Cool As Hell Theatre Podcast

    By Blogger Unknown, At September 2, 2007 at 3:09 AM  

  • I will be the voice of dissent here. Chloe, you are a librarian's nightmare! (in my case, a former librarian) That goes for the rest of you too!

    By Blogger Kristin Tieche, At September 3, 2007 at 11:41 AM  

  • I know that books are tired of us.
    I know they are chaining the Bible to chairs.
    Books don?t want to remain in the same room with us anymore.
    New Testaments are escaping . . . dressed as women . . .
    they slip off after dark.
    And Plato! Plato . . . Plato
    wants to hurry back up the river of time,
    so be can end as a blob of seaflesh rotting on an Australian beach.

    R BLY

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