Suggested reading music: Glenn Gould’s The Goldberg Variations 1981 recording.
So after the other nights post I decided it was time for something written with a mild amount of mania, but no alcohol and with as little whining as possible. The entire point of this is to spit out anything that comes to my mind rather than keeping it all to myself, no matter how much I hate the thought of someone reading it. This entire blog is basically an exercise in rolling around on the floor thrashing.
Anyhow, I wrote this post the other night, and despite hitting the save as draft button I lost it. The second attempt here will probably be much shorter as I hate to re do work. Tonights topic is the paperback book. The paperback book is one of your very best friends. It can fit in your pocket in most cases, and true to its original purpose when it came out in the late 1800s it is more affordable than the hard back book. If you have ever been to my home then the first thing that you will notice is that we love books. Bibliophiles to the core, well it is probably the fourth thing you’ll notice if you go about this spatially as the tea shelf, china cabinet, and kitchen are all before you would ever reach the books. However this fourth thing is a great one. A good friend of mine visited my house recently and while lamenting that he did not read more, also said that my pile of books to read before the next semester of school starts was “ambitious.” Coming from him I will take this as a great compliment because I have never heard him say that a goal was too large until I proposed that we ruck The Great Wall of China. I love books so much in their paper form that I even keep a current dictionary on hand, something people often mock. Victory is mine however as I just successfully used that dictionary in double checking the difference between to and too. Take that nay sayers.
Back to the point, We love to read. Reading, in my humble opinion (unless you know me then you know it is not humble in the slightest) is the first and most fundamental skill of a free people. Literacy is a weapon. The Nazi party burned books, certain unnamed religions have in the past (or right this very minute) use the lack of literacy as a way to make sure their minions do their bidding. I believe in freedom, and people like me thumb their nose at the idea of burning or banning books so thoroughly that we set up a table at libraries specifically so that previously banned books are very easy to locate.
We have a culture invaded by those who mock literacy, who are upset when they go to read Dracula and it is nothing like Twilight (I’m assuming the movie in this case) who would happily laugh at those they find reading a book rather than playing with the other children. While I believe in being well rounded, I also believe in a core set of skills that must so strictly be kept sharp that to not do so should border on criminal. Reading is one of those and yet our ungrateful society has forgotten that when we declared our freedom the Declaration had to be read publicly on balconies so that all could understand it, and that while they play with monster high and never crack a book (the two are in no way mutually exclusive monster high is just in my target sites at this moment) that there are literally children dying to go to school. The thought never would begin to occur to them that while we have a gender wage gap, other countries are lagging on the development index because they refuse to send the same amount of girls to school as they do boys (it could also be how many go to school after elementary but lets not split hairs) I encourage all children to read. I have even tried to give away books ( I also had a reputation amongst the trouble makers in my neighborhood before we moved so it was hard to convince people to come onto my porch and take the books.)
Let us come back to our friend the paperback. It was meant to make books more affordable. All authors want to be read. Yes they make money and plenty of them love the money, but at heart they want their work to spread like an uncontrolled wildfire. Some of them have such an established audience that they will write a crap-tastic book in the middle of an awesome series, inserting some social issue they care about, I call this a soap box book (cough James Patterson cough.) The paper back was in a way the Realization of the ideas of those like King James I, The dream that more people could read the Bible for themselves and so with the creation of an English version (the third actually approved by the English church authorities however apparently the puritans wanted something more accurate) of the Bible came the push for greater literacy. Whether you love the Bible or not, it is the center of literacy for the English speaking world. Even the first widely used schoolbook in America, Noah Webster’s A Grammatical Institute of the English Language or the “Blue Backed Speller” more commonly, which Webster made to improve schools and education in the Republic was a combination of Biblical morals and Republican ideas meant to make good citizens out of children.
Enter all these years later our friend the paperback…someone please help me to stay on track! The paper back meant to spread books further for less was a massive success. Think back to your school days, those glorious shelves filled with beaten and worn copies of some of the best classics for whatever grade you happened to be in. Now in some cases nothing to me is worse than and obscure and old book (those crazy books in antique stores that are the leavings of once respectable collections picked over until all that is left is something no one has heard of ever) but with the school paperbacks all of my senses are brought to life. I remember specifically a copy of Charlie and Mr. Willy Wonka, Matilda, and later in high school finding my second copy of The Count of Monte Cristo on a worn shelf in my creative writing class.
Think about those books
, their yellowed pages, cracked spines, covers missing pieces, dog eared pages (not a practice I support but a sign the book was read at least partly) possibly a pencilled list of previous owners, and best of all the smell. I personally live by the nose (my eyes are not so great.) I believe that no sense can be linked as closely to memory as the sense of smell and we all know the smell of good old paper back, If I made a yankee candle out of it I would call it “Library” or maybe more on the nose “old paperback.” I like the smell of new books too, and I detest the moldy smell of a book that is old but uncared for. Right now my paperback of choice is some very old Signet copies of the Ian Fleming James Bond novels. These books are great and despite the fact that I have to tape these antiques back together after just one read I find their vintage to be far superior to that of a new copy. There is a wonderful store a few towns over, Bearly read books, well wonderful when you find what you are looking for, but this is simply a side effect that they have many treasures to hunt through, and they always have the vintage James Bond I need for my collection.
It is the edition put out to promote the movie. I bought it at Mckay’s used books in Chattanooga Tennessee when I was sixteen and it has been my constant companion ever since. It is in desperate need of some love and I may have to break down and do some repair work soon.
Now that you have read this long and tedious mess what is your favorite paperback?
Hrolf the Ganger.