Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Bibliophilia

I'm currently reading Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman.  I'm enjoying it but I'm not even halfway through.  Fadiman suggests there are two types of book lovers.  There are courtly lovers who treasure the physical properties as much as the intellectual content of a book.  As such they are utterly horrified by dog-earing, laying a book face-down and splayed open to save a spot, writing in margins, and other forms of mutilation (Fadiman even recounts the story of a friend who would not use overly thick bookmarks).  There are also carnal lovers for whom marking up a page with one's own notes, carrying a book into a sauna, or even tearing out pages are expressions of consuming love unconcerned with maintaining the physical integrity of the book since it is only the ideas contained therein that matter.

Fadiman puts both feet firmly in the camp of being a carnal book lover as she describes the indelicacies of her treatment of bound volumes.  I am breathless at the carnage perpetrated upon her books.  Clearly, it would seem I am a courtly bibliophile.  Since infancy my children have been instructed in the proper care of books and they have had an extensive library at their disposal.  When they took books from the public library the rules became even stricter as to what was permitted.  Diana herself can tell you the story of months worth of drying the dishes for money to replace the library book she took to the tree house and left in a puddle overnight when she was about seven years old (At Chez Lime personal books were permitted in the yard but library books remained indoors).

That said, I have to confess my own carnal tendencies toward a few of my books which bear considerable underlining and margin notes.  As for Diana, even though she is a heavy underliner and note taker, I do believe she would recoil at the notion of ripping a page out of any book.  I would posit a third type of book lover.  The common book lover recognizes the value of physical integrity as a courtly lover but does not consume the book in the same destructive orgy as a carnal lover.  The common lover merely leaves his or her marks upon the book in a way that makes it even more personal and more beloved.

So now I ask all of you.  Are you courtly, common, or carnal lovers of books?  Do different books warrant different types of love? What are the marks of your love or the efforts you take to avoid marks out of love?

24 comments:

Craver Vii said...

For your bound friends that are not books, I recommend a glass of prune juice.

I'm glad you put a third category in there. I'm more comfortable with the "common" designation. A loved book can look a little worn, but not abused. I am conservative about when and how to mark up a book, but don't mind occasionally bending pages back, or dog-earing to save my spot. I find it especially difficult to write in my Bibles. Any books that I do not own however, are always treated with special care.

And another thing... I am not a big fan of the pervasive tendency to divide people up into two categories. Really, there are three kinds of people... those who are good at math, and those who aren't.

haphazardlife said...

I'm definitely a common lover. And now that I read mostly on an ereader, I do much more highlighting than I did with paper books.

Sailor said...

Common, most definitely.

Books are treasured, and friends- and I don't mark them, or dog-ear them; and as of Border's closing, (when I acquired enough shelving for my entire stock) they are no longer stored in stacks and boxes.

But, they are read, re-read, lent, used, browsed... many of my books are older, and it shows, but unless it's a new acquisition (thank God for thrift-stores!), there isn't a book among the roughly 3200 I have on my shelves that I haven't read at least once.

So, any "abuse" is from loving them enough to read 'em again!

Rob said...

In keeping with my nature, I would say I'm mostly carnal -- although I have some classic, collectors, and heirloom books that I treat with the courtly reverence they truly deserve! Does being carnal make me a bad person?! ;-D

lime said...

craver, funny thing is MY bibles are the books most heavily marked in my house.

haphazard, i think that ereaders would bring out that tendency more easily since it doesn't cause any sort of damage.

sailor, nice job getting a hold of some good shelves for your expansive library!

rob, i'm gasping at the shock though i am glad there are a few precious volumes worthy of courtly love. no, it doesn't make you a bad person....but i have my eye on you. ;)

IT (aka Ivan Toblog) said...

I suppose I'm common
Though, in college a few texts had some underlining (highlighters had yet to be invented) and margin notes

And my Big Book is well marked, but not to the extent of some other members copies

Suldog said...

For the most part, I try not to write in books or remove any part of them. An exception is dust covers. I am no fan of them. I take them off of most hardcovers immediately, if they can be removed with a minimum of defacing to what's underneath. Just a personal quirk. I prefer the book to look like a book, if that makes sense.

I've signed one or two books in my time, but only because someone has asked me to do so - that is, when I've given one as a gift and somebody wanted to be reminded of that fact. And I have a few volumes signed by the authors. But, otherwise, I can count on the fingers of one hand the times I've actually written something in a book.

I love the tactile about books, the feel of them, and I love the smell (even when they become somewhat musty; maybe particularly so, to be truthful.) Such things as a kindle or a computer will NEVER be a true alternative for me.

Craig said...

TEARING PAGES OUT OF BOOKS?!? NNNOOOOOOOOO!!!

(*hyperventilating*)

OK, better now. . . mostly. . .

I'm pretty close to courtly with my books. I finally broke down, and started marking passages that I thought were especially noteworthy with a discreet asterisk in the margin. Just so I could easily locate them again later, you understand. But I would never dog-ear a book, or (*shudder*) underline; it's just so. . . undignified.

I once bought a used book that had been moderately heavily underlined, and spent a week going through it, erasing as much of the underlining as I could manage (I eventually found a less-adulterated copy).

I have tried to instill my bookish values in my children, but I have finally abandoned the project. They can trash their own books, if they want to. But God help them if they abuse one of mine. . .

I started journalling many years ago, so I could make notes on the books I read, without having to, you know, mark up the book itself. . .

Uncle Skip, said...

I'm in complete accord with Craig, except I'm not organized enough to journal about what I've read.
I read a Churchill biography and never thought to keep notes about some of the things I'd give just about anything to remember now. I guess I may have to reread it?

I'm fascinated with the idea of the Kindle, but love the idea of having the books up on the shelf telling everyone, "Look what I've read." It's probably a good thing I only keep a few of the books I buy.

Stephen Hayes said...

Most of my books are art books selected because they include beautiful details of paintings I love. It's a courtly love, to be sure.

Tabor said...

With me it depends on the book. My poetry collection is treated as if made of crystal with the view that I will have them until I dye and hopefully some younger version of me will get them.

Tabor said...

Oh really...you do know I meant die!! must have been Freud that caused me to avoid that final word.

Daryl said...

i love to read. love it, been reading since i was 4 .. honest .. now with my iPad Nook app i am in hog heaven .. books and more books.. i dont know which category i fall into but i do know it would never dog-ear a book or write in one .. not even my college text books .. and i find it very hard to part with books, the wonderful 'archive' feature on my Nook app makes me happy. i am done reading and archive the book so its not cluttering up my library but its not gone

now the pile of books next to the bed has vanished and many of the books i can bear to part with have been donated to both our local library and a hospice nearby.

Craver Vii said...

Removing dust jackets? Suldog likes his books naked. ;-)

Hilary said...

Common for sure. Books are meant to be shared and they can't be enjoyed by others if they're defaced in any way.. or you're too worried about keeping them pristine.

lime said...

IT, you're big book? what's that?

suldog, i'm all about the tactile joy of books too. i've read a couple of books on my daughter's kindle and though it would be nice for traveling rather than carrying a load of books, i still like my actual books. have to admit i take dust jackets off while reading but when i am done they go back on.

craig, yeah, the passage about tearing a page out of a book made me bleed from my eyes.

skip, rereading isn't such a bad fate if it's a book you truly enjoyed.

stephen, oh yes, i couldn't see how art books could be loved in any other way.

tabor, i'd love to know who your favorite poets are.

daryl, i love the idea of donating to a hospice. i usua;;y give my used books i'm not keeping to the local library for it's annual used book sale, which is their BIG fundraiser of the year.

craver, avert your eyes, it's book porn! (as opposed to porn books)

hilary, that is very well said, very well indeed!

coopernicus said...

somewhere between courtly and carnal....I guess that makes me......

CORNHOLIO!!!!!!!!!!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8u5UfpunNI

Dave said...

I respect books and insist on Jill as well as myself using flat bookmarks to mark to place and not bending over the corners as we used to do. I think all books should be treated with respect, though wear and tear is normal. Perhaps a well worn book shows its popularity? - Dave

Bijoux said...

I think I'm common. I rarely have read a book twice as an adult, so no reason to mark it up as I'll never open it again. Too many good books out there, not enough time to read them all!

Jocelyn said...

Common! Completely.

And now deeply grateful that you reminded me Anne Fadiman has written more than one book and that I must read EX LIBRIS.

lime said...

coopernicus, as long as you don't use books when you need tp for your bunghole!

dave, well worn means well-loved

bijoux, dso many books, so little time!

jocelyn, glad to be of service. i hope you enjoy the book.

Tim VanSant Writes said...

I must fit your common category, but I lean more to the carnal side. I can't imagine how tearing pages out of a book is a good thing though unless you're using it for kindling.

[There are two kinds of people in the world... those who divide the world into two groups and those who don't.]

goatman said...

I once borrowed an Atwood from the library which had all of the similes underlined. I know not why?
Seems a gray area between carnal and common -- maybe just the page tearing which seems to annoy everyone. Who does that?

lime said...

tim, i truly don't understand ripping out pages. and your group logic totally cracking me up.

goatman, writing in a library book?...ok, breathing deeply....wow. just wow. as for who rips pages, according to fadiman her father does!