Thursday, 30 June 2011

Dirty Books

Having recently moved to a new town, and with the local library conveniently located near my house, and on the way home from work, I decided to get a borrower’s card.

Photo by Paul.
As a kid, I didn’t really like to read. It might have had to do with the fact that I was a slow reader, and it would take me forever to get through a book. Another factor at play was probably that fantasy books were really popular during my elementary school days; Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and that stupid series whose name escapes me that was about a medieval mouse warrior*. I tried some of the fantasy novels that all my friends were reading, and that were recommended to me by adults who assured me that I would like them, since I had such an active imagination. Sure, I knew how to use my imagination – don’t all kids? – but I like to think I had a pretty realistic view of the world. Those fantasy novels were just too far fetched and un-relatable for my liking.

So, I’ve recently kindled** an enjoyment of reading. I’ve realized it’s about reading good material. I think John Irving deserves some credit for writing extraordinary characters that exist in the most ordinary of circumstances. So last week I took out a book for the first time from the Flesherton Public Library. It’s a popular new-ish book and I’ve been waiting for it to become available for several weeks***.

When you check out a book from the library, you, of course shouldn’t expect it to be in the same condition as a book right off the shelf from Chapters. I don’t mind a few dog eared pages, a cracked spine, or a tear in the paper here or there, but what I do not like is other people’s dirt on the pages of the book that I’m reading. Yuck. Chapter twelve of my current read is smeared with evidence that one of the ten patrons of the Flesherton Public Library who had checked out the book before me was either enjoying a snack of chocolate pudding whilst reading, or trying to add some class to the bathroom by introducing some literature to the process of making a deposit, if you know what I mean. I really hope it was the former.

Beyond the hygiene issues, dirty book pages bother me because the dirt distracts my attention from the content I am trying to read. As I read, even after I’ve passed the part of the page that has been desecrated, I continue to see the brown spot out of the corner of my eye until I turn to the next page. I find myself rushing through the page, and often missing some of the subtle nuances of the text because I’m so anxious to be rid of the disgusting stain. I’ve even found myself cleverly using my bookmark to cover soiled sections of the page so I won’t be so distracted.

To my fellow library patrons, please do not eat or participate in other potentially messy activities while you enjoy a shared book. If I wanted to read a dirty book, I would have checked out Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

*Yes, a mouse warrior. I never read the books, but I had many friends in school who did. Every cover featured an illustration of the little mouse wearing a different battle outfit, and facing off against some giant enemy, like a dragon, or a giant Cyclops. I just googled it; it’s called the Redwall series. Here’s an example of the covers. 

**My instincts told me to write ‘rekindled’, but since I didn’t have a love of reading in the first place, it wouldn’t be an appropriate use of the word. You don’t see the word kindle used as a verb on its own very often. It’s always either rekindle, or kindling, as a noun; the stuff you use to start a fire. It’s also ironic that there’s an e-reader called the Kindle, considering this post is about books.

***I’ve added the Flesherton Public Library catalogue to my favourites on my web browser.

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