Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Johnny Book-seed

On the ride home from a birthday party I asked our DD, Steve, if I he had read the book sitting in the middle of the trucks' front bench-seat, David Gran's The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon.  When he said he had, I asked if I could borrow it.

"Well....okay.  I'm just gonna tell you this because I have to.  I hate loaning books to people and then never getting them back.  And I hate loaning books to people and then they never read the books and they just sit around in a pile in their house.  So if you really want to borrow it, and you're going to read it, and you'll give it back to me, or give it to someone else who really wants to read it, then yes.  You can borrow it."

With mild trepidation, I reached out and took the book.  I'd been wanting to read it ever since we did our Amazon trip in 2008.

"That's cool.  I really want to read it.  I pinky swear I'll read it and give it back."

I don't often care about whether or not books make it back to me.  In fact, I have a habit of depositing books wherever I go.  And I actually would've deposited this book in Beloit, Wisconsin if Steve hadn't given me a warning.

My advisor at Antioch College, the wonderful Robert Fogerty (long-time editor of the Antioch Review) was a collector of Modern Library editions.  He had a bookcase just for them in his home.  Picking up those books with their especially silky paper and their rough cloth bound covers, it made me want to be a collector.  I admired his passion for the physical object.  I used to try and do the same thing, because I thought that it was the right thing for a dedicated reader (and eventually a writer) to do. 

And then I realized I didn't give a shit.

Because it's not the physical object that gives me the pleasure, it's the ephemeral stuff, the weird magic that happens somewhere behind my eyes.

That's not to say that I don't enjoy physical books at all, I do, and haven't yet succeeded in using eReaders, even though they would drastically decrease my luggage weight.  But I don't feel attached to the book once it's through. 

There's something about leaving a book behind, the idea of some random meeting the book might have with the eyes of an as yet, unknown reader, that appeals to me. 

A Johnny Book-seed.

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