'I love the smell of new books," says Bambi*. "That's why I never go to libraries."
It's a common misconception that library books are as tattered, torn as a tart's tights. Not true! Here in Wirralia we get new books in all the time - and those that stagger back to us having fallen foul of the rougher type of borrower are resuscitated using special, librarian CPR:
- Pritt stick
(Did I mention? Vampire books are almost as popular as serial killer books in Wirralia.)
I've written before about some of the fates that can befall the written word. Old library lags tell of books being returned having shared bags with fish or dirty nappies. And a good blockbuster makes an amusing coaster for your drinks, don't you think? Or a goal for an impromptu game of football? Or a plate?
We do our best to keep things clean. But are pristine books what we should be striving for? Does that not imply they have never been read? At home, I'm forever buying books and then not reading them - I've had books for thirty years and never opened the covers.
I'm reading Best of Myles just now - an anthology of Flann O'Brien's early columns in the Irish Times under the pseudonym Myles na Gopaleen. He suggested a solution to books looking unread: "Why should a wealthy person...be put to the trouble of reading at all? Why not a professional book-handler to go in and suitably maul his library for so-much a shelf?"
He proposed a graduated scale from 'popular' ("four leaves of each to be dog-eared, and a tram ticket, cloak room docket or comparable article inserted in each as a forgotten bookmark. Say £2 17s 6d. Five per cent discount for civil servants") to 'Le Traitment Superb' which involved passages underlined in good quality red ink, notes in margins ("Yes, but cf Homer, Od., iii, 151") and forged inscriptions from the author: "From your devoted friend and follower, K. Marx")
But dogs? As Myles points out: "Novice handlers, not realising that tooth-marks on the cover of a book are not accepted as evidence that its owner has read it, have been known to train terriers..."
What do YOU think?
Do you only really love a book that is still unsullied by human hand/eye/other parts of the anatomy? Do you want to know others have enjoyed it or is a desirable slim volume dead to you once its spine has been bent, it's corners fondled, and there is herbage growing out of it?
Related posts: Don't touch the sticky books.
* Names have been changed, but this friend was once described by another as 'like Bambi on ice' which immediately became one of my favourite similes.