Say it like you mean it

The Birth of VenusA Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Book: Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, Anne Fadiman
Start Date: 12/27/06
End Date: 12/27/06

In the essay “Never do that to a book” Fadiman states that there are a number of ways to love a book, among them carnal and courtly love. At first read, it would seem that I fall in the courtly love category. I make a concerted effort to not break the spines of my books, I make sure my hands are clean so as not to leave any smudges and I NEVER dog-ear the pages. But I also do things which she says courtly lovers would never do: I do take notes in my books, I sometimes (though very rarely) place an open book facedown, and I have been known to leave bookmarks or mementos in between a book’s pages (but still being careful to not crack that spine!).

A carnal lover, she writes, loves a book to pieces. I shudder at the thought. But that’s not to say that I don’t own books that haven’t seen better days. As a matter of fact, my favorite book of all time, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, looks like it’s been run over by an 18-wheeler. I let my sister borrow it and it lived in her high school locker for months, at one point she even spilled a soda on it.

Ordinarily, this would have meant buying a new book, but I’ve grown attached to this book. I bought it the summer before my senior year of high school. I was buying reading material for my AP English class and I discovered P&P in a $1 bargain bin. Of all the books to be found in the box, only Pride and Prejudice caught my eye. Though I’d never heard of Jane Austen and, except for the required reading in previous English classes I’d never before read a ‘classic’ willingly, I decided to buy it.

“How can I lose?” I wondered. “It looks good and it’s only a dollar.” I was unaccustomed to the writing style so it took a little bit of work to get through it, but get through it I did. As soon as I was finished with it, I began it again.

There was no way I could get rid of this book even if it was yellowed and soda stained. I’ve since laminated the covers, and have had to scotch tape sections back into the book. People who know how militant I am about keeping my books in good shape are always amazed that I own a book in such a sad state. My sister and several friends have even gone as far as buying me newer versions of the book. I have, much to my amusement, six versions (at last count) of Pride and Prejudice, including a pocket sized 1959 Dell version that originally sold for 50 cents. Despite having all these different, newer versions, I always choose the original book when I want to reread the story or passages from it.

It knows me, see. It remembers my favorite passages, opening itself to the verses instantly. Rare are the times when I have to leaf through the pages looking for that line or scene that I’m wanting to read.

And so, I seem to be a strange mix of the courtly lover and the carnal lover. Not quite in the middle but still a healthy mix, I think, even if my friends would argue with me.

Which category do you fall under?

Posted on 12/18 at 08:47 PM


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