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.