07 April 2010

Day 11: The Story Sisters

The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman.  ISBN: 9780307393869.

I think one of the things I love most about borrowing books from the library or buying them used is all the extras you get with them.  The left over inscriptions and dedications, the underlining, forgotten bookmarks, and lingering smells.  These are objects that carry their own history, however ephemeral and distant.  You can trace your fingers over the edges of the book that were touched by someone else, but in most cases you will never know who held hat book before you.  There's still that connection though, there is some bond or similarity that caused you to pick up the same book and read it, regardless of your individual responses to it.

I wonder about the person who had The Story Sisters before me.  Whoever they were they lived in a house with a dank, musky smell; perhaps a combination of perfume and cigarettes, or incense.  I can almost smell dirt on the pages, the longer I keep them open the fainter the smell gets, either because I become accustomed to it, or because it is slowly disipating from the paper.

These are not exactly new thoughts, but they have become more refined and intense as I grew from passionate library user to history major to library student and hopefully to professional librarian one day.  As a young woman and even today I go back and forth between wanting a copy of a book that has been circulated as much as possible to one that has never been checked out, despite the obviously outdated cover. 

I feel pity for llibrary books that have never circulated.  Sometimes they are even the rare gems that everyone should have been reading, but were passed over in favor of the latest vampire novel.  These were items selected by diligent librarians who wanted to improve the literary tastes of their patronage, who purchased that well received first novel in the hopes that someone would pick it up and love it, and maybe recommend it to their friends.  I love these books because it feels like they've been waiting for me on the shelf for all those years.

But the battered and abused have their appeal too, as do the brand new copies with shiny covers, those that have been handled and those that will be handled.  There is a joy in being on of the first to read something new.  I think that's why my fiance loves reading my blog posts before they go live, it's why some people go to release parties or pre-order books from their favorite authors.  If they're one of the first or one of the few it makes them feel like they have some ownership over the story, and they do.  They can ruin it for other people.

I think that's why I like sharing my thoughts about the books I'm reading rather than reviews.  It doesn't really give much away.  I can expose important details about the books to you, but until you read them you won't know how they relate to the story; you only know how they affect me.  Rather than seeing the fingerprint I left on the book, you're seeing the fingerprint it's left on me.  And now I have to wonder if and when you read the same books I'm reading, if you'll think of me, and what the book will make you think about.

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