A Stain do so tell a Story
A used book is like an old friend: It comes with all its quirks and messes, beauty and wisdom, the smudges of humor and the driest of wit, and we are all better for knowing it.
A stain do so tell a story.
You know what is my favorite part of a tea mug? The rings of speckled, charcoal brown stain that quietly mark the inside of the mug. Like a vintage photograph, it speaks of the countless cups of reverence I’ve held in my palms in past hours, days, months, years. Countless moments of personal reflection, deep reverie, precocious daydreaming, and silly fantasies.
A well-read book does the same. You can feel the weight of its memories, test the weariness of its pages, and every flick of your fingers adds to its magic. I seriously feel that there are few things more beautiful than the gift of an old, used, personally meaningful book. You can write a message inside the front cover (hardcover, fountain pen, hopefully), foregoing the need of a card which will simply be lost through the passage of time. Thick, solid wrapping paper. No bow or ribbons. Maybe a cute sticker to keep it all together.
I actually don’t have as many books as I should. Because I move so much, it’s not practical to collect them now, both financially and spatially. I love libraries though. Sometimes you’ll find little writings people leave on the margins, or pages dog earred, and I move my finger past the creases, feeling its rises and falls, wondering if they were doing a school project, writing a memoir, or perhaps needed to get some inspiration for a good note to their significant other. Were they reclined in a wooden rocking chair by the window sill, or maybe curled up in a coffeeshop beside the frosted glass, or maybe sitting upright in front of their huge, messy desk, facing a night of stars, with the fireplace cackling softly behind them? Maybe, maybe, maybe. All those possibilities.
I know we are on route to electronic everything, and books will follow. There’s no doubt about it. It’s simply a torrent towards the future and you can’t take such a universal pasttime out of the equation. BUT, my problem with something like the Kindle (which I have not tested) is that it reduces the sensory experience of reading. With a printed book, you can touch, caress, feel the edges, carry its weight in your bag, admire the cover and spine, hear the rustle of pages as you flip them, etc. etc. With an OLD printed book…even more visceral the experience, there’s that haunting perfume of a page that all book lovers know dearly, it’s not just intangible sentimentality – you can feel them with your senses, it is absolutely tangible pleasure.
Reading on a screen? I do it all the time, all day long. I hate it. It’s distanced, cold. Just information passing by. I’m just a sorter. There’s no intimate connection.
It is the content that matters, but I challenge that it is our experience of that content that matters even more.
This past weekend, I found a Sentry Edition of Willa Cather’s “My Antonia” in a used book store in the annex and am already mesmerized. Inside the front cover is this hand-wrote inscription in faint blue ink:
It’s a pleasure to introduce Antonia of whom I am very fond. I think, perhaps, you could be very much alike.
Bill Slouder (spl?)
R.R.#1, Kapaa, Kauai, Hawaii
I wish there was a date. The cover is made of this cloth like paper of amazing texture…sturdy spine with one light brown streak – probably coffee or tea.
If only the pages could speak…