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bibliomania

Rachel Cooke presents an ode to good book design in the Observer, which also discusses the different ways in which we treat books. It's been a while since I read Anne Fadiman's delightful Ex Libris, but Cooke has reminded me of Fadiman's distinction between the different sorts of bibliophiles - those who are "courtly" or "carnal" book lovers. And I am, as anyone who's asked to borrow a book knows, a courtly book lover.

I look after books. It causes me genuine pain to crack a spine or crease a cover. I mean, I read A Suitable Boy without cracking the spine. Whether it's likely to rain or not, I keep a plastic bag in non-waterproof bags to protect books from water damage (I seriously can't bear to read wobbly water damaged books - the awful creaking of the pages!). Of course, I don't think everyone should keep to these freakish standards - unless I lend them a book. I make it very clear if I lend someone a book that I expect the lendee to look after it, and I can think of few ruder things than to treat someone else's book in a way in which they would not treat it themselves.

I don't give a shit if you crack your own books' spines or bend back the cover or write all over them or throw them down the stairs. But if you borrow my books, you look after them. Or you can replace them. And no, I'm not joking. I think if you borrow anything, from a saucepan to a pair of shoes, you treat them not as you treat your own stuff, but as the owner of the borrowed items treats hers. And yes, that goes even if you think the owner is anal or weird. I once loaned someone a book who returned to me a creased, water-rumpled mess without a word of apology. I can't imagine she'd have behaved the same way if I'd loaned her a top and she'd given it back to me in rags.

Is it anal? Yes. Is it verging on OCD? Probably. But they're my books. So I treat them my way. And anyone who borrows them should do the same.

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barsine
Apr. 16th, 2006 09:44 pm (UTC)
Was the awful friend me? I know I got that Amelia Peabody a bit wet, and I'm REALLY sorry, I felt awful, but it was excessively rainy that day and it seeped through the plastic bag ... sorry again!
stellanova
Apr. 17th, 2006 12:23 am (UTC)
No, of course it wasn't you! You are the perfect person for an anal person like me to lend books to, because you look after them! Amelia just got a tiny bit damp, despite your valiant efforts, but this case (which was when I was in school) involved a book looking like it had gone in the washing machine.
barsine
Apr. 17th, 2006 11:23 am (UTC)
I always try to look after other people's (especially yours, since I know you like to keep them in good condition), but I'm more cavalier with my own. I ALWAYS break the spines of large volumes, and I tend to get them a bit bent. I don't turn down the pages or write in them though, and I TRY not to get crumbs between the pages or coffee rings on the covers! (I don't eat when i'm reading your books, don't worry!) Actually, re turning down the pages, I might do that in a trashy sort of book, like a second-hand Patricia, because they seem more disposable, but I never do it in my regular books.

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