I’m a writer. And before that, I am a reader. I love a great story; if it’s very good, I will read it over and over. A good yarn, like your favourite vacation spot, should be returned to again and again. You will always find something new to love about it.
I sometimes find that folks get a wee bit precious about the actual book itself. To some, a book is a sacred object, which should be kept pristine, should never show signs of wear, should never look as if it has been touched by human hands. They swear that e-readers are the devil’s spawn because they want to feel the pages between their fingers.
To me, waxing lyrical over a book is like showing reverence to a banana peel. It’s not the reason you buy the banana.
I love books, but I don’t believe in the sanctity of them as a physical object. Popular books are cheap; they are essentially disposable. I don’t believe in treating books like holy relics. If I wear it out, I can buy another one.The best books are the ones that look the worst, like a much loved teddy bear. If there is a book I want to keep pristine and unused, it’s usually because the actual item is a souvenir, a gift, or an artifact. A book I treasure and keep in perfect condition is not a book I want to read.
If it is a story I love, well, that’s different. I read the hell out of it. If I love a story, I will read it until the pages tatter and it falls apart. I treat it like a whore at a frat-house gang bang. I write in the margins, I dogear the edges, I crack the spine. I take it into the bath with me and let it blow up with moisture. I drop food in it and get it grease-stained and smear the ink – because I don’t want to stop reading it for any reason.
I will mangle and devour and ravish it until it’s wrung out and panting and lighting up a cigarette and gasping, “Was it good for you, too?” I may respect it in the morning, but I’m going to give it a damn good seeing to in the meantime. It is my greatest hope that, if I am ever published, my books will look like the beloved, ransacked, dog-eared messes that is the hallmark of all my favourite books. Comfortable, faded, overwashed and overworn. Those are the books I love over and over again.
A book is a vehicle – the story within is the journey. It’s the story that takes me there, not the paper and ink that prints it. When I go on a trip, I concentrate on the scenery, the activity, the weather, the sunsets and the great food. I don’t come home and talk about the car that took me there and brought me home. That’s what it’s supposed to do – whether it’s an actual physical book or an electronic file, it’s job is to deliver the goods.