Like any avid book lover, when I began earning, a good portion of my salary went to buying books. I loved the clean smell of new books, the pristine pages opening up just for me, and the crisp words sizzling up the pages. I was a new-book snob; I wasn’t too romantic about second-hand books with their dog-eared pages and dulled print. I entered into a relationship with every book I bought, and I liked the idea that I was the one and only owner who would read and handle them.
All that changed a couple of years ago. I began to feel guilty about the number of trees I must have indirectly hacked down for my pleasure. I decided to whittle down my library to as few books as I could. I donated books to a nearby library, and people who had borrowed from me could keep the books I had lent. I still haven’t quite gotten down to the ideal size, but I have made a great deal of progress.
The other thing I did was to sign up at a library so that I could have my reading quota done guilt-free. I got over my reservations about handling the books, which were by and large clean and not too used. I was doing fine, really. Until I borrowed this book.
The very first page was ominous. The first line of the text read: “It was a pleasure to burn.”
Just above that, clearly hand-printed in ink was a question
Why would you want to burn?
At the bottom of the page, the person continued
Who is he?
I winced at this; it was like a knife plunging through the text. It was just a sign of things to come.
Every page had questions, reactions, statements:
Who was it?
Is she really crazy?
They put someone else’s blood in her?
eww it’s salty
ooh that’s mean
I thought sports were gone haha
Billiards? What’s that
Where are they?
What the hell?
How could the T.V. talk?
Who are these men?
What’s going on?
getting on my nerves
Who are these men?
I wouldn’t do that
Your’re not in LOVE!
On the last page, at the very end, there was just one word:
Honestly, I could barely read the book. It was like trying to see a movie while an annoying neighbour piped up with comments all the time. I couldn’t glare at the person or shush him/her. But I was rather amused too. Sometimes, I felt like getting into an argument with him/her. Sometimes, I felt like explaining. Sometimes, I just rolled my eyes — duh! you didn’t get this?
It was an interesting experience, but I can’t say I enjoyed it. I like my reading experience to be an intimate one, a one-on-one with the story. The notes in the margin interrupted that for me, and much as it might make for a fantastic story (so many possibilities to weave), I prefer my books clean any day.