Why I Break The Spines of Books

Last week, my dearest, most darlingest readers, I wrote about my right brain’s sometime conflict with my left brain.  I used examples from my sordidly disorganized past, juxtaposed (ooh! big word!) with tales from my less messy present, to show that somehow, the two sides of my brain are learning to work together.

Pondering this ambi-brained-ousness reminded me of something particularly nit-picky I used to do but have abandoned in these, my wiser years.  (Insert guffaws here.)  So, here’s another look inside the mind of Courtney; please, pardon the dust bunnies and random (memory) holes in the floor, and do watch out for low-hanging whatnots and any underfoot baubles or doohickeys.

Behold! Beauty! Pristine perfection!

The Girl Who Ate the Book

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Courtney who loved books. She read pretty much anything she could get her hands on, and she devoured it all without ever getting her fill.

She borrowed books from friends and family. She bought new ones (books, that was, not friends or family) whenever she could scrape together enough cash to make a trip to the bookstore worthwhile. She brought the books home, tucked them into their special (alphabetized) places, and read each one in its turn. Her every book received its due attention and care, and all was well with Courtney’s reading world.

But, as is so often the case in utopias, there was a slight problem. You see, Courtney was something of a hypocrite concerning her books: She felt at ease in asking to borrow others’ books, but she was terribly reluctant to loan out her own treasures. Her selfishness didn’t extend to saying “NO!” when others asked to borrow a book…but she did feel a heaviness of heart and a quiet sort of desperation as the friend or family member in question departed with the loan.

You see, Courtney had rules for her books. And even though she tried to impress upon others the importance of following each rule, few people ever took her concerns seriously.

Don’t get the book wet.
Don’t get the book dirty.
Don’t write in it.
Don’t turn down pages.
Don’t dog-ear the pages.
And, whatever you do,
DON’T BREAK THE SPINE.

Courtney would admit (privately) that most of her friends and family could handle most of the rules. Nobody ever got one of her books wet. There might have been a single incident of a friend’s returning a book with a smudge of grime on the cover. Turned-down pages were a rarity. The dog-ears posed a greater challenge to the borrowers; but Courtney cooed over these returns and patiently folded each and every dog-eared corner back into place.

Alas, however, the most important rule was also the most difficult rule to obey. And once it was broken, there was no fixing the result.

When Courtney bought a new book and brought it home, she treated it with such care that, when she was finished reading it, it still looked as though it had just come off the shelf at the bookstore. Courtney never dog-eared the pages. Above all else, she never broke the spines. Her bookshelves were row after row of pristine, smooth, unbroken paperback glory. She read her books over and over, and not a single one looked used. Her bookshelves could have been featured in magazine articles on How To Make Books Last.

This, of course, meant that she read each book half-open, squinting at the pages and turning the book to and fro as she tried to decipher the words hidden in shadow closest to the spine. But who cared? The effort was so very worth it, when she could look at her pure, perfect bookshelves and know that all was right with her world!

Courtney, to the detriment of right honorable ideals of literacy and self-perpetuating inspiration, expected others to treat her books the same way she treated them. Whilst handing a loaner book to an as-yet-unsuspecting fellow bibliophile, she went to great pains to explain her reasoning concerning her rules. As she spoke, she didn’t seem to notice the increasingly deer-in-headlights look that swept the listener’s face. She certainly didn’t see when those eyes glazed over. All she knew was that she was making her rules quite clear, and she was doing it with a smile.

A well-devoured novel

When the loaned-out book came back with its spine creased, she felt devastated. The poor, precious book! White, ragged lines marred the former pristineness! Of course, of course, the book would be forever beautiful because of what was inside it…but those marks, those tiny cracks, those fractures would never mend. The treasure was tarnished. Past hope, past help.

Then, one day, Courtney grew up, figured out what “devouring” a book really meant, got the stick out of her you-know-where, and started breaking book spines the way a wild animal cracks the bones of its prey to get at the marrow inside. Her friends and family heaved sighs of relief, started asking to borrow books again (for they’d stopped doing so after all of Courtney’s put-upon complaints and sorrowful looks), and everybody lived happily ever after.

THE END.