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I Love the Material Nature of Books

jrlewis's picture

I love the material nature of books.

Books will make you stronger, if you let them, in brain and body.  Anyone who has walked four miles with the Norton Anthology of Poetry, a paperback novel, and a macbook in their bag can attest to this truth.

I have a history of violence with books, the first casualty was my high school guidance counselor who made the mistake of questioning my sexual orientation.  Instead of answering, I threw my chemistry textbook at her head.  I will also throw books at people bent on preventing me from reading.  It takes less time to cross a room and retrieve a book than it does to explain to a man, my preference for words over his package.  A woman with a book is not waiting for a man to rescue her from loneliness.  In my experience, a book is a better companion than most men.  Or women for that matter. 

I say books, not novels or poetry, because fiction or science it is always a story.  Bring me your organic textbook and I will read you a brilliant collection of short stories.  Every chemical reaction is a drama.  The reagents are characters and the products are their descendents.  Every scientist is telling their own story, whether or not they have the insight to admit it. 

I have a serious book problem in my home.  The interior space of the house is finite; my appetite for literature is infinite.  So I use books as best I can.  Hard cover works are great coasters and placemats.  “Last Night in Twisted River” has not suffered so much for a spot of spaghetti sauce.  Books serve as floor mats in my car, saving the carpet from muddy soles and such.  I aspire to submitting photographs to bookshelf porn. 

I can recall perfectly, the first time I realized that the book in my hand was more real than the table my elbow rested upon.  It was my high school senior year English class.  On the syllabus for that day was Jeanette Winterson’s novel, “Oranges Are Not the only Fruit.”  Earlier in the year, we had read James Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.”  This was simply another coming of age story to compare and contrast. It satisfied the curriculum requirement for modern English literature.  Winterson’s book satisfied me in a way that I didn’t even know was possible.  It was my first orgasm.  Reading is sex. 

The note from my advanced placement literature and composition grader complimenting me on my insight into the novel was icing on the cake.  My teacher ran around showing every school official and literature teacher she could find- quite the sugar high for a sixty-five year old woman. 

You can’t ask your favorite author to sign your kindle.  Nor should you leave your e-reader next to the stove in the kitchen when there is a chance that the pot will boil over.  Books are hearty enduring things.  Purchasing a book is a sort of marriage proposal.  Will you read me? Caress me?  Make room for me in your house?  Will you carry me through your life?