The other day I was trying to explain to my friend the difference between a loafer sock and an ankle sock. For some reason, she wasn’t getting it. We were waiting on line in a store and there wasn’t any paper handy. So I whipped out a pen and the book I had in my bag, opened to a blank page at the back, and drew a picture. The cashier gave me one of the most horrified looks I’d ever seen. It was the kind of look that I would have reserved for baby killers who sell drugs to kids, kick their dogs, and root for the Red Sox. And all because I’d drawn a little picture in my own book. I was tempted to rip the page out afterwards just to see how he would react but I don’t like to see grown men cry.

This reminded me of an essay I read once. It’s from a book by Anne Fadiman. In it the author splits the world into two categories: Courtly Book Lovers and Carnal Book Lovers.

The Courtly Book Lover:
Uses a bookmark; she never dog-ears a page. It’s what they were invented for.
Never, ever, ever breaks the spine. Ever.
Frowns upon writing in a book. Though, in cases of dire necessity, it may be done very lightly and in pencil.
Breaks out in hives if a page is ripped out of a book.

The Carnal Book Lover:
Always dog-ears. Bookmarks are for wimps.
May even *gasp* break the spine in multiple places and place an open book face down. Uses books as coasters, extra paper, or table-leg eveners.
Understands that sometimes books fall into bathtubs. (My sister still hasn’t forgiven me for that yet…)
Has probably learned not to borrow books.

I, obviously, am a carnal book lover. Books aren’t Lladro statues that should be admired and handled with white gloves. They’re made to be read and smelled and even dumped into bathtubs or swimming pools if the occasion calls for it! So, are you with me or should I have my book reading privileges revoked?

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16 Comments:

Blogger krissyinva said:

I am somewhere between the two. I usually don't use bookmarks, I either lay the book face down or dog ear the page. I will also read while eating or in a nice bath. I don't use my books as a coaster and I have never written in a book. I guess I have split personalities.

7:48 AM  

Blogger Jenna Petersen said:

See, I see my books are friends. And friends are meant to be loved. So I break their spines and dog-ear their pages and highlight the passages that make me sigh. Hmmm, maybe this is why I don't have more friends. Though, in my defense, I've never broken a friend's spine.

Anyway, I would love to think that someone loved a book I wrote enough to doodle notes in the margin or have to buy a second copy because they read it so much they trashed it. :) That's a dream!

9:56 AM  

Anonymous Shana Galen said:

It's funny because I often have people buy second copies of my books to have signed. They tell me they got their original copy wet or dirty, and they're embarrassed to allow me to see it. Hey, if you bought my book, do whatever you want to it!

10:17 AM  

Anonymous Robyn DeHart said:

Oh yeah, total carnal book lover here too. I don't often write in them, but generally because I don't have a pen with me while I'm reading in bed or the tub, for that matter. Good distinction. My husband is totally the other and he reads boring text books and the like. But his books look way better than mine - he cringes when I break spines, but hey, that's how I know I'm really into a book.

1:43 PM  

Anonymous adjunky said:

carnal, absolutely! But maybe that's because it's the words I have the obsession with - not the covers.

3:58 PM  

Blogger Terri said:

I'm a Carnal, married to a Courtly. He freaks when I dog-ear pages, and takes the sleeve off his hardcovers while he's reading them so they don't get messed up, then puts it back on when he's finished. It's bizarre. :) Maybe it's a guy thing.

At least he reads! LOL

5:13 PM  

Blogger Nancyrowina said:

I fold the corners on books and let them get on the floor to be kicked about I must confess.

10:00 AM  

Blogger Esi said:

I have expressed my views on this loudly to Tessa on a number of occassions so I won't go into here, but let me be the first to admit--I am a courtly book lover.
I have only written in books for school, in pencil, verrry lightly. I have never torn a page from a book--can't you hear the poor paper crying??

It might be a little bit OCD, but I like to see my books all neat and lined up and pretty. So to all your carnal book lovers, don't be surprised if I don't share.

5:07 PM  

Blogger Zoe said:

Paper are cheap and therefore I am not afraid to break th spine or to write notes in them or to doggy ear the pages. Its what they are designed for. But hard cover books i tend to be more careful with simply because of $ and they look good in a bookshelf paperbacks don't

8:03 PM  

Blogger Jenna Petersen said:

LOL, poor Esi, we've likely given you a mild coronary with all this talk of busting spines and writing and kicking. Just go to your happy place... happy place...

11:10 PM  

Blogger Dana said:

I am afraid that I am a carnal book lover. I devour them and handle them roughly, but I am tender in my own way as I don't write in them or tear pages.

What a nice blog! I have enjoyed reading it so far.

1:07 AM  

Blogger Devonna said:

I fall under the Courtly book lover category. I have a collection of book marks and use them religiously. I collect my books, so I sure don't want to damage them. Yes, I borrow them out ~ but I have been known to lend them to people I know dog-ear or bend back the front cover (it damages the spine, don't ya know?).

8:53 PM  

Blogger Devonna said:

Correction ~ I meant to say that I have been known to stop lending to folks I know will dog-ear or bend the spines on my books :-) Big whoopsie.

Devonna

9:18 PM  

Blogger Esi said:

rj, you're my new favorite person. ;)

10:44 AM  

Blogger Devonna said:

esi ~

I knew there had to be someone out there who had the same thoughts about their books as I do. :-)

Devonna

11:00 AM  

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