Thursday, August 23, 2012

Romancing the Book

By Anne Clinard Barnhill


     I'll be the first to admit to being old-fashioned.  Though I own a Kindle, I have only read two books on the device, preferring to use the machine to vanquish the green, bubble-headed pigs in the ever-challenging Angry Birds game. No, I prefer my books in my hands, their smooth covers calming me as I stroke them back and forth, back and forth with my thumbs.  After observing myself in process, I realize I seduce my books, come to them gently and in stages, before devouring them.

     First, there are the shy, furtive glances.  A new book arrives and I glance at it, then look away. Once more, my eyes are drawn to the cover--the colors, the shapes first; then, the words in the title and the author's name.  I may stop there, wait a half a day or even longer before proceeding.  After exactly the right amount of time has passed (after all, I'm a good judge of those lapses; I've uncovered many a book and know just the moment to make my next move), I look again, from lowered lids, a sneak-peek at the back cover.  I do not yet read the blurbs; instead, I see the size of them, the shape.  Are they thick, chunky paragraphs or ethereal wisps of dreamy sentences?  Who wrote the blurbs?  Do I know the work from the blurb-writers?  What do their names look like, trailing across the page?

     I put the book down again, move on to some other pleasure.  I must make several approaches to the pages before the game begins.  Next time around, I'll read the blurbs and allow myself to be impressed.  After all, it's like meeting the book's friends and I want to like them and for them to like me.

     Perhaps a day has passed; perhaps a mere hour, though usually such a pace is beyond me these days.  I want to savor the anticipation as much as the act itself.  Slowly, I pick the book up again, caressing the spine, rubbing my fingertips across the thickness of the pages.  I am especially excited if the paper edges are rough, torn.  There seems such promise there.

Then, I  open the book to investigate what it will allow--the front jacket summary, the back jacket 'about the author.'  I  may read these things more than once, fitting the story on my tongue and licking up facts about the writer to see what I might learn, to use for later, afterward.  I then move on, if I'm bold enough, to read the acknowledgements and the Q&A, the discussion questions.  I can hear the pages as I turn them, a sort of music that hums through me, setting my bones to vibrate.  But again, I put the book down.

     I supposed I have, as a younger woman, just jumped right into a book, careless of its sensitivity, clumsy in my yearning.  But now, timing is everything and taking my time is its own pleasure. 

     Finally, the moment comes when I am ready to begin reading.  My fingers have already learned the shape of the book in my hand, the heft of it.  I know its smell and its look.  I am ready, now.  And, several days later, as I turn the last pages, I will know why I must approach the book with awe, with reverence.  I will know the secret the book had to give me, just me, and I will hold it in my hands.

12 comments:

  1. Love this post. I commented on your page on facebook.

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  2. Odd - I used to think like that but I'm now totally seduced by my e-reader. (Of course I didn't buy a Kindle so all my reader does is offer books - no games - and my relationship with it is much closer to a book than a computer)

    I love having a whole library in my handbag. I'm currently carrying round about 50 books and half a dozen journals, a dictionary and a couple of reference books, a diary and several holiday brochures. All in one neat package.

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  3. I don't own an e-reader. My Mom has a Kindle and I've had her download some books on hers and she's shared the Kindle with me. We pass it back and forth. I am a dedicated book in hand kind of person. I recently won The King's Concubine by Anne O'Brien and as I opened the package, my DH asked me if I realized that I petted the book. Actually I was running my hands over the cover and gazing at it lovingly. I looked at him and in my Gollum voice said,"My Precious!". He just shook his head as he walked away. I don't care how many rooms that I have piled with books, I will forever be buying those over downloads. I can totally relate to your post. :)

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  4. I love the seductiveness of a book. An e-book just doesn't compare...

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  5. I enjoyed this so much! I am the same way about books-I love the appearance, the feel and the smell of them. I like to set a new book aside, just to savor the anticipation (kind of like hiding chocolate). I do have a Kindle, and I like it much more than I expected to (I have even read it at home-some books, after all, are available only as e-books these days!). However, I tend to think of the Kindle as a supplement to my library of volumes, not a replacement.

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  6. I'm glad to have found some kindred spirits and maybe, over time, I'll learn to have a better relationship with my kindle. The book over which I was hovering as I observed my process is The Plum Tree by Ellen Marie Wiseman out in January. The colors of the cover are so vivid that I still am touching it and sort of warming it up before I read. Luscious! This is Anne Barnhill.

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  7. I love this post Anne. And I'm honored to know you were talking about my book!!! Thank you.

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  8. This post reads like book erotica. Haha! I love it!

    I'll probably own an e-reader someday, when they become really inexpensive, or someone gives me one, but it'll never replace the love of an actual tactile book for me.

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  9. Great post! I have a Nook but love reading regular books as well. The Nook lights up so I can read at night without disturbing my husband. Love the idea that I can get instant access to a book that someone recommends. But holding a book is its own special pleasure as well.

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  10. So I'm not the only one that reads this way!

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  11. This is very beautiful! If I love a book (printed) I will sometimes walk around the house with it when I'm done, holding it against me. I will take it with me where I am sitting next and stroke the cover...I am not kidding! I will look at it like someone I love very much.

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  12. This is very beautiful! If I love a book (printed) I will sometimes walk around the house with it when I'm done, holding it against me. I will take it with me where I am sitting next and stroke the cover...I am not kidding! I will look at it like someone I love very much.

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