Book Guilt

"I love paperback too, except when I borrow it from a friend. Seems it always comes to me in pristine condition, especially from one fastidious friend, and I just KNOW it's going to be looking dogeared and disheveled when I give it back! Book guilt. Perhaps the best kind."
Does anyone else suffer from the seemingly incurable Book Guilt?  The above quote is actually a comment from not undecided, left on my very first blog post here at the 1kDEP.  I've been meaning to write about this for some time, because I feel it is a fairly universal experience.

I've mentioned before my history of book sabotage.  Stains, wrinkles, tears, even corners nibbled away by my guinea pig.  A book that falls into my lap is doomed from the beginning.  No matter how careful I am, a book I read will never remain in the same condition in which it starts. (This applies even to hardcovers.  I don't know how many book jackets I've lost.)

My college roommate, who is self-diagnosed with the same condition, softens the reality of the situation by saying she "makes love" to her books.  I am less subtle.  If she makes love to them, then I fuck them hardcore.  She got me this journal for Christmas a few years back, attractively titled Wreck This Journal.  I think it was meant for readers like me to take all their rage out on this one book, and quit bullying the others in their collection.  Great idea -- that book is a mess.  But I still can't stop ruining everything else I read.

Now, my own books I have no problem screwing up.  I carry them everywhere because I love them.  They become like my security blanket.  They are mine, I bought them, I adore them, and if I ever read them again, I can look at those stains or those pig nibbles and remember how great it was to read the book the first time through.  The wounds to the pages are like badges of honor.

However.  As a consequence of my habitual display of affection, I become that much more terrified to even touch the books belonging to other people.  It really is like being in a relationship.  A sick sick relationship.  Imagine I'd dated the B/F for so long, it gave me a weird feeling to even shake the hand of some other guy.  That's how I am with books.  I know how to treat my own, I know what they can take, and what their limits are.  But other people's books are so foreign.  I don't know how to handle them, so I avoid handling them at all.  Plus what if I came across some of their book stains?  It's like walking in on them.  It's weird.  And so whenever someone asks me if I'd like to borrow their copy of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, or Ariel, or Beaches, I immediately shy away, waving my hand, saying, "Oh, no, that's ok.  I'll just ruin it."  What makes it worse is that they never believe me.  People who own books love to let other people borrow them.  But they have no idea what I'm capable of.

Thus, Book Guilt.  Months ago, I finally built up some courage and borrowed a book from not undecided, which she'd recommended to me via Shelfari -- The Secret Life of Bees.  Turns out she'd actually borrowed it from her sister.  Double whammy.  The book was already pretty well worn, but I handled it with my kiddiest of kid gloves anyway, and made sure to worry the entire time I was reading it.  Don't forget this isn't yours.  You have to give this back to somebody.  This has to look good.  I don't think I ever put my whole palm on that book the entire time I was reading it.  Fingertips only.  But you know what?  I got it back to her sister in relatively the same condition in which it'd been lent to me.  That was the first time that ever happened to me.

So maybe you can overcome the book guilt after all.  I smell a New Year's resolution.

1 comment:

  1. Ha! What timing on this subject! I JUST finally finished a borrowed paperback of Gulliver's Travels (damn if I didn't like it one bit, but I'm still glad to have read it), and now have to stack it under a heavy to try and get the corners bent back to flat! It was lent to me at the same time as A Primate's Memoir (by Sapolsky, HIGHLY recommend, sooooo, SO gooooood), which I read first, and removed the dust jacket so I wouldn't lose it or fuck it up. Well fuck if I can find it now, haha! So I replaced that copy, which is totally okay with me because that's one totally worth owning whether I ever find its jacket or not! So sometimes fucking a book so hard-core-ly that you get to keep it and give back a brand new copy is a bonus, too. Heehee!