Ex Libris, Anne Fadiman

Ah, books about books.  I read this because I can’t get ahold of Nick Hornby’s much-touted books about books.  Anne Fadiman writes about all kinds of aspects of loving books: marrying libraries, loving your books, plagiarism – all kinds of things.  I liked some of these essays a lot – the one about marrying libraries made me wince because I could picture myself agonizing over how to organize and sort out my books with someone else’s.

I was interested to read an essay from the perspective of a woman who loves books and doesn’t mind destroying them.  (I wrote, destroying me, and didn’t notice until I was about to hit publish on this post.  That should tell you how I feel about it.)  I’m what she calls a courtly lover, and it has never kept me from enjoying the hell out of my books.  I don’t understand the carnal love that she and her family feel for books.  I just don’t.  Even after she explained it, and talked about all the things that courtly lovers are missing, I couldn’t understand how anyone could think this way.  I still own the copy of Jane Eyre that I read when I was eight years old.  Ditto Little Women, and Peter Pan (a little younger), and all of Edward Eager’s books except for Magic or Not, which has gotten lost over the years, to my serious distress.  Imagine if I had smooshed the pages all around or God, torn them out and thrown them away.

To me, books get better the longer you have them.  Whenever I pick up my copy of Little Women, I remember how excited I was to get it, and how pleased I was because it was huge, and I had to sit with it open on my lap because it was too heavy for me to hold up for any period of time.  I have my copy of Caroline B. Cooney’s Among Friends from when I was nine years old, and some girls at school were making my life a misery.  My mother had told me about Among Friends and how it was about a girl in a similar situation to mine, and I remember I was brushing my teeth, and she came into the bathroom and said, “What book do you want more than any other book in the world?” and I said, “Among Friends,” and there it was, she had bought it for me!

I don’t know.  I love that books have a history, and if you treat them like crap, they’ll never grow old enough to have that.  They’ll get all torn up and mussed, and eventually you’ll have to buy a new copy and start all over again.  What about you?  Are you careful of your books?  Do you get attached to specific copies?

Funnily enough, I couldn’t relate to her story about her favorite pen.  At least, not much.  I am a fan of pens, and I’m always looking for the exactly right pen, but I don’t tend to get fond of particular, individual pens.  I miss some pens that I’ve had before, but only because I haven’t been able to find the same pen to replace them once they got lost or ran out of ink.  I always write my stories on the computer, and I have since I was a little bitty girl – my thoughts just flow better that way.  But my books, now, I would be crushed if I lost any of my old books.

Other views:
Stainless Steel Droppings
an adventure in reading
Rose City Reader