QUESTION OF THE DAY: Are you a book-devourer, or a book-preserver?
OK, I know you all love books. But my question today is – HOW do you love them? Ravenously, or tenderly? Do you physically devour them, or do you treat them like holy icons? Do you bend the pages and scribble notes in the margins, and place them face-down on the floor, and use them for a door jam? Or do you wrap them in mylar and keep them away from direct light, humidity, and your cup of coffee? Are there crumbs in your books, or could you eat off them (except that you wouldn't?)
I ask because sometimes I'll be doing a book signing and someone will come up with a battered, tattered copy of EAT PRAY LOVE for me to sign (something that looks like it's been to the beach, dropped in a bathtub, chewed on by a puppy, and had red wine spilled on it) and they will apologize for the shabby condition of the volume. As if I would be angry! But I think it's wonderful. I always say the same thing: "This book looks very well-loved."
I also think it's wonderful, though, when people present me with a book to sign that looks as though it's being preserved for the Library of Congress — practically handled with white gloves. I say the same thing in that case: "This book looks very well-loved."
So many ways to show love…
I myself am a book devourer. I love my collection of books but I don't fetishize them. I think they can stand up to some rough treatment, because I think books like to be tussled around a bit — like a lover in the bedsheets. I'll eat over a book, take it out in the rain, fill the margins with exclamation points (when I really love the content), leave it in the yard, lend it out to never be returned. I'm a book monster. I adore books too passionately to treat them gently.
Yet I have friends who, when they drop a book, will tenderly pick it up and kiss it, as if it were a baby. This, too, is love.
How about you? What's your style?