Sunday, May 16, 2010

In which I blather about books

I love books.

Yes, I love to read. But that's not the same thing. I think everyone "gets" that I love to read and, if they haven't, it would be a subject for another blog entry anyway.

I love the books; the physical board, binding and pages that make up a tangible Thing you hold in your hand and read.

New books are okay. I'm a terrible book defiler -- I make notes and underline things because I'm positive I'm going to reread this book someday and want to leave myself a message about where my head was the first time I read it. I am a book collector's nightmare because book collectors only like pristine copies.

Me -- not so much. I would love to buy a used book filled with notations from someone who obviously has the same literary tastes -- kind of like a book club you don't have to bake cookies for...or wear pants.

Which is why my favorite books are used books...and library books. I'd rather browse ABE than Amazon any day.

Book sellers and librarians are pretty diligent about cleaning up the books in their care, but every now and then something slips by them and my day is made.

They're pretty good about leaving inscriptions alone. These speak to the romantic in me. I want to think the book really was given with love from Winston to Melva. I want to believe that the only reason the book is in a used bookstore is that Melva finally died after 12 years of mourning the loss of her beloved Winston and their alcoholic, good-for-nothing son sold every possession he inherited to fund a wild bender in Vegas with his future fifth ex-wife. Or something like that.

One library book I took out had exclamation points in the margin throughout the book, I assume next to passages some reader had liked. I found a cookie recipe written at the end of a chapter in a book I bought at a used bookstore (a mediocre snickedoodle-type thing, but still...).

I remember reading a string of similar library books for awhile and coming across editing marks on a regular basis. Typos in books are rather common, so that didn't surprise me. That someone would feel it necessary to mark the mistakes, as though there would be points off if he let it just slide by, is a little compulsive. Okay, maybe he was majorly compulsive because he felt the need to list the errors and page numbers on the back flyleaf. I'll bet this is the same type of person who, when you were 13 and had to go to school with a giant zit on your nose, felt they had to point out to you that you had a giant zit on your nose.

But what amazed me was that I was obviously checking out the exact same books as the person with this compulsion.

The best, though, is finding a cache of used books before a bookseller or thrift store employee has had a chance to rifle through them. That's when you find the little bits of this and that people mindlessly stuff in between the pages and forget about. Newspaper clippings, receipts, notes -- I have an old copy of The Big Sleep with a faded note in it that says merely, "Tommy, Eat! M." I love that note; it tells me Tommy liked to read Raymond Chandler, but wasn't a big eater and he had was concerned about that and she wrote with a pen with blue ink in it.

The note is still in the book, which for now I intend to keep. But who knows where it will wind up when I'm gone.

I kind of hope Tommy outlives me.


Gwynne said...

Okay, I'm a defiler also and have been known to edit books but I seriously doubt we frequent the same used book stores (and I've never created a bibliography of that IS compulsive)!

Darkgarden said...

Gee... Hmm.. .Why do I find a certain affection for the dude who's headin' to Vegas for the future ex-Mrs. Darkgarden? ROFL!!! ... but I know ya' love me... in some strange way.