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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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seriouspenguin
Apr. 19th, 2006 01:12 pm (UTC)
I go through the whole stack when I purchase books too. I hate it when a new book is all scuffed before I even bring it home. I am careful of my books as well; I've had people think I hadn't read a book yet when I loaned it to them. They can get a little scuffed at the corners from being in my handbag, though.

However, I am disgraceful when it comes to returning borrowed books. They are always in the same condition they came to me in, but It takes me forever to get them back to their owners. That's why I don't borrow them. I have a few books here that friends have *insisted* that I borrow, and it's like I have a mental block about them -- I'm just never in the mood to read them, I don't know why. There's always something else I have to read first.

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