Thursday, 27 March 2014

Reading Habits #7: How do you treat your books?

© Prashant C. Trikannad

“My spine is hurting,” the paperback said from the bed. “I think I may have torn something.”

“A page or two, perhaps," said the hardback sandwiched between a Dostoyevsky and a George Eliot on the bookshelf. "What happened?"

“Slept badly, I guess.”

“Wide open and face up, or down?” the hardback inquired politely.

“Wide open and face down. That’s the third night in a row I've been mishandled. This morning I heard the birds singing outside the window and when I opened my eyes I couldn't see a thing. It was pitch black. I panicked. I thought I’d gone blind. And then, suddenly, there was a dazzling light. I saw that the housemaid had lifted the pillow.”

“So you spent the night under a pillow.”

“Yes, I did. To be honest with you, I actually liked it. It was cozy and warm. The pillow was white, clean, and smelled of lilies.

“Lilies?” the hardback raised his eyebrows. “Who did you say you were?”

“I never said who I was. Anyway, since you are asking now, the name’s Scruffy. And you are?

“The Mapmaker. I belong to Frank G. Slaughter,” the hardback said. “Why lilies?”

“Oh, I don't know, I like flowers.”

The hardback straightened up. “I know who you are. You are Paul Gallico’s, aren't you? The same fellow whose Poseidon Adventure short-changed you.”

“He did not short-change me!” the paperback said, indignantly. “I came way before Poseidon. Had it not been for the movie…”

“Are you feeling better?” The Mapmaker, who was also a peacemaker, quickly changed the topic.

“Why, what’s wrong with me?”

“You said your back was hurting.”

“Oh yes, I did, and it’s still hurting and that’s because I was lying open and spreadeagled all night. It’s easy for you stiff-backs. Look at Fyodor next to you, straight as a ramrod.”

The Mapmaker was about to say something nasty but let it pass. Instead, he said quietly, “Who’s reading you, Scruffy?”

“Some college kid who doesn't know how to read me or treat me. You’re fortunate his mother is reading you. She cares for you, doesn't she?”

“She certainly does, like she cares for her plants, her cats, her children, and her husband. So how does this kid treat you?”

“Well, last night and the night before and the night before that I was flopped over his sweaty and smelly face for like an hour, maybe more, and then he picked me up and shoved me under his pillow.”

“The same pillow that smells like lilies?”

“The same pillow. Thank god, the housemaid changes the cover every morning.”

“How much has he read of you?”

“Seventeen pages! Can you believe it? I’m only 288 and I’m very funny and he’s been at me for two weeks. Why doesn't the kid just give up on me?,” Scruffy wailed.

“Scruffy, 288 is a lot for a kid who hasn't read much. I mean, you're not the best or easiest of reads.”

“And I suppose you are, Mr. Mapmaker, with your navigational nose for latitudes and longitudes,” he snarled.

“Scruffy, I’m more than latitudes and…”

“That’s not all,” Scruffy cut in rudely. “Look at me, I’m torn, I’m dog-eared, I've been nibbled at, I’m shapeless, I've been scribbled all over, and I feel like I've been dipped in ketchup. This is NO WAY to treat a book or read a book,” he shouted hysterically. 'Tell me, Mr. Navigator, would you treat your maps like this?


“I'm not just a navigator,” the Mapmaker hissed under his breath. He stared at Scruffy and muttered to himself, “Why am I talking to a monkey?” He folded up his jackets, rested his head against Eliot's shoulder, and closed his eyes.

© Prashant C. Trikannad, 2014

Note: For previous Reading Habits, see under Labels.

28 comments:

  1. Prashant! Why don't you ever write stoires for those flash fiction challenges? This was delightful.

    Frank Slaughter! His books lie unread and unpurchased in ignominous and forlorn boxes at every book sale I've ever attended. I should buy them and send them to you.

    As for the way I treat books... Well, let me just say that I'd never loan you anything from my library. Even my less than perfect reading copies get quality TLC. Though I try not to buy ugly beat up books if it's the only copy available and I want to read the book I buy it. I think that sadly mishandled book is finally happy to be in a home where it is treated with dignity and respect. :^D

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    1. John, thank you for the kind words. This was a flash in the pan. I'm working on a collection of short stories, a more serious effort, but it'll take some time. I'm still giving it shape in my mind and in words.

      Again, thanks for the offer to send Slaughter's books over to me. He is one of few authors whose secondhand novels are available easily in Mumbai (Bombay). I enjoy his historical and Biblical novels and the last ones I read were THE THORN OF ARIMATHEA and UPON THIS ROCK.

      About 95 per cent of my books are secondhand. I give away most of my books after reading them and the only series I'm holding on to is Oliver Strange's westerns called SUDDEN, the Texas outlaw. The Corgi editions are hard to find and I don't like the reprints. I also have a decent collection of Don Pendleton's Mack Bolans including those written by Pendleton himself which I might hang on to for a while. On the other hand, I don't let anyone touch or borrow my comics that include a few annuals.

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  2. I agree, Prashant. This is very clever and I enjoyed it very much. I sometimes do sit my books wide open, face down like that. Not often and not for long, and not with my best books.

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    1. Tracy, thank you for the appreciation. It took me quite a while to write it down. Writing fiction in any form is not easy. Too many possibilities in every sentence. After I'm through reading I put away the book safely and quite often where I picked it up from, usually the bookshelf.

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  3. Great post Prashant. I try and care for mine, but not obsessively so. My son tries to read without creasing the spines, but I'm less careful.

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    1. Col, thanks very much, indeed! I'm rather obsessive about keeping our books neat and tidy than reading them. Also, I rarely read without a bookmark and when I don't, I memorise the page number only to forget it the next time I pick up the book.

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  4. That was superb Prsahant - nicely done sir!

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    1. Sergio, great! I'm glad you liked it. I really appreciate your feedback. I think the most difficult thing about writing is keeping it simple.

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    1. Charles, thank you very much. Your appreciation as a published author is most welcome.

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  6. Prashant: "Scuffy, Scuffy can you hear me."

    "I can just barely hear you. Can you talk louder. Who are you?"

    "I am yelling as loud as I can but it is hard to speak when you are at the bottom of the TBR pile. I can barely breathe there's so many books on top of me. I've been down here so long my name has been forgotten."

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    1. Bill, thank you! That was very clever. A whole lot of books at the bottom of my TBR pile are crying out to be read. Some of these books I rediscover during cleanup. "Scruffy" was lucky. I read the Paul Gallico Penguin paperback a long time ago. Scruffy is a Barbary monkey living among others of his kind on the Rock of Gibraltar and generally making a nuisance of himself to British troops fighting the Spaniards. It's a tale of legend as well.

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  7. Enjoyed this, too, Prashant. I didn't know you were an aspiring writer.

    I am anal about the care of my print books. After I read them they still look new and unread. I rarely loaned out (to who? no one I grew up with read for pleasure) and I really really hate cracking that spine.

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    1. Hi Keishon, I'm happy you enjoyed this impromptu piece. If nothing, it helps break the monotony of posting. As to being an "aspiring writer," I've some ideas. I give away most of the books I read though there are fewer and fewer takers these days. One of the things I've often noticed about new books is the abysmal quality of printing, especially the spine that dislocates quite easily and loosens the pages.

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  8. Ha! very funny and creative, Prashant! I'm with Keishon - I'm quite anal about taking care of my books. I don't fold them or leave them propped open upside down, etc. And never..NEVER...would I deign to write in a book. Horrors!

    Each to their own, though! ;)

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    1. Hi Jeff! Thanks for all the kind words. I've rarely come across used books with anything scribbled in them. One of the reasons could be that the booksellers go through their books carefully before putting them up for sale. They often assure me that their books are in pristine condition and they usually are. I've seen people eating and reading at the same time and then turning the pages with dirty fingers.

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  9. Oh very funny, and clever, and all too recognizable....

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    1. Moira, thank you very much. It beats the stress of writing a regular blog post. I enjoyed writing this.

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  10. I think, could be wrong, that my books would say they are well treated by yours truly ... I think ...

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    1. Hi David! Serious readers (and writers) like you and everybody else on this page would treat their books really well. I think many of us have an affinity for books more than we do for people.

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  11. I am very careless with my books. Sad, I know. I have to get inside them so breaking the spine is my first act. It's the words inside I care about.

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    1. "...the words inside I care about." Nicely put, Patti. A couple of my acquaintances cover their books and label them accordingly. I tried it but gave up after one or two books.

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  12. Prashant, I absolutely LOVED this! And I'm going to share it on all my social networks I loved it so much.

    We all read so differently don't we.

    Unfortunately, I'm a spine breaker. If I'm reading a paperback, I like to get into it, get comfortable and read. For me, it shows a book is loved and well read. If it's really dog eared, it could be a sign it's well read by many,so a great book with many great words inside.

    Sometimes, and I couldn't tell you why, I do read without breaking the spine. Something about a particular book makes me want to keep it in just bought condition. Funny that.

    Again. Brilliant. Thank you.

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    1. Rebecca, thank you for the kind words and I'm grateful to you for sharing it on your social networks where I have no presence at all. I agree, we read books differently, and books mean different things to different readers. I've come across many books in bad condition which seems to suggest that they might have been read by many, though one can't always be sure.

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  13. Guilty Reader here! So sorry, books. I never considered your feelings until I read this post. I'm off to look under the bed, the pillow (that might smell of lilies--have to check) and retrieve that paperback from the shelf where it's face down, spine cracked. I feel like such a bad owner.

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    1. C. Lee McKenzie, thank you for visiting and commenting. You have a wonderful website and blog and it was nice to read about your own YA and Middle Grade books among others.

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  14. hahaha this is brilliant :D an absolute delight to read... I wonder what my "cuckoo calling" paperback would say - Man she uses me t kill cockroaches :P

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    1. Rajlakshmi, thank you for visiting and commenting on this post and also for following my blog. I appreciate it. I'd forgotten that rolled-up newspapers and paperbacks can have other uses like whacking cockroaches to death.

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