Book War Wounds

I am careful with my books. They are the kids I don’t (and am not likely) to have. They go everywhere with me, and I always have at least one on hand. But as often as I lug one around, even being careful, they inevitably bear some marking of that kind of love, from the occasional curled edge or corner repaired with acid-free invisible tape to the faint white wrinkles down the spine. They’re wounds, to be sure, but who hasn’t been wounded by love in their lifetime? Not that this exonerates me for the guilty feelings I have for some of the bruises my books have endured.

This past weekend, for example, I was reading Inheritance by Christopher Paolini. I was sitting at my desk and taking a break from my homework. I was sitting quite normally and enjoying my cup of coffee when tragedy struck. I picked up the mug, engrossed in the page, and then…a slight tremble and SPLASH! Sloshed coffee smeared along the margin of one page and drip marks along the outside edge of the pages on half the book. The damage wasn’t catastrophic. It’s not like I soaked the whole page, but it was bad enough. I’m quite perturbed by it, but I’ve done worse. The Mists of Avalon and I enjoyed a hot bubble bath together once, and while I got in with the intent to unwind, I got out cussing, fussing and fumbling for a towel to try to minimize the damage I’d done to my poor book. I didn’t have a hair dryer (because I don’t use one), but my book spent some quality time basking in the white-hot heat from the famous Sarah Lawrence radiators to dry off.  The pages are still a little wrinkled, but there’s a story to it now, too.

I suppose some of this makes me a bad book-parent, but my philosophy is this: every kid gets an egg on their head when they headbutt their parents while playing, or a scuffed up knee from playing on the jungle gym at the park. Bumps and bruises aren’t always a sign of abuse and the lack of them might mean they’re lacking in play or attention. I love my books, and it shows – but with a passion that sometimes leaves a mark or two. It’s part of the reason why I don’t borrow from the library as much as I probably should. I’m not the kind of babysitter other book parents want.

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