Cruelty to Books

I’m not sure what Tik Tok is and my grandchildren assure me I needn’t worry my grey head about it, but I did read an interesting story about a Canadian woman who scandalised Tik Tok users with her attitude to books. She, an avid reader, cracks open the spines, writes notes in the margins and on the end-papers, and removes dust-jackets. People who had previously Liked her or Followed her or whatever one does on Tik Tok, accused her of heinous crimes. If she does this to innocent books, one complainant wrote, what might she do to a helpless animal or small child? Gosh.

I love books and have a serious book-buying habit, but they are not sacred objects for me. I buy them, read them and, if they’re novels, usually pass them on. The only books I treat as precious are a handful of artist’s books, unique items, made for me years ago by Carrie Galbraith, a talented artist and dear friend who died far too young. Everything else is mass-produced and, if it doesn’t sell, mass-destroyed. If you’ve ever had a year’s work pulped you will understand why I can’t treat books with solemn reverence. Yes, I turn down page corners. I use books as coasters and leave coffee rings. It’s my book, bought with my money. I could use it for toilet paper if I wanted to, and sometimes I’m tempted.

Marginalia aren’t really my thing but my late husband, who was an even bigger book fiend than me, left his mark all over our library. He’d underline things he found particularly moving or apposite or annoying (mainly annoying), and write phone numbers or indecipherable memos on end papers. Occasionally I come across some of his jottings and it makes me happy. It means, Howard was here. He read this book and this was his candid opinion of it.

Some of the Canadian Book Vandaliser’s Tik Tok Likers, or perhaps now, Dislikers, said her treatment of books made them feel physically ill. Are they for real? I hope their reverence for books extends to picketing those libraries that are currently on a hunt & destroy mission to remove anything un-PC from their shelves. Now that’s an attitude to books that should give us all an attack of the vapours.

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