Sunday, January 26, 2014

Adventures of a book

Dear Reader,

In this blog post I would like to relate a vision that I had t’other day. I was sitting on my chair, canvassing my book-shelves, and methought that one of my books came to life, this simple hardcover duodecimo volume, the title of which I could not easily see from where I was sitting. It began to speak to me as if it had a mouth. The book related to me the story of its life which I herein faithfully reproduce:

“I was born,” says he, “in a printing house in Burlington, New Jersey, though my memory of that period is naturally faint. Shortly after I was pressed and bound, I was packed inside a crate and loaded onto a vehicle headed to New York City. My first owner was a kindly old book seller who placed me in his store on a shelf overlooking a window. My earliest memories from that period are of a telephone pole and a row of windows making up the bottom floor of a handsome red brick structure, and occasional pedestrians passing in front of me. Here I remained for the first two or three months of my life, marveling upon everything I saw out the window.

I was given as a gift to my first owner, a young man of a rather waggish disposition, who took poor care of me. I cannot remember whether the fellow ever read me at all, which surely is to be expected among such frivolous gentlemen who prefer to spend many hours tapping away on their electronic gew-gaws. Yet I remained in his household for no more than three months. Ultimately, I was tossed into a box full of other books and other trinkets, and, to my unspeakable horror, left on a street corner.

Luckily, my next owner claimed me before the monstrous garbage trucks could  swallow me or nature’s forces destroy me. I was very happy to have a home again, especially one in which my new guardian could give me the proper care and attention I deserved. Shortly after I was carried to my new Master's home, he did peruse me from front to back, even making several pencil annotations throughout my several parts. At his home, I was introduced to about two hundred more of my brethren, with whom I maintained various interactions in the time I was there. They helped me discovered some things about my owner and about the world at large. From their words I learned that my Master’s single vice was that of wanting household husbandry skills, though that otherwise he was a decent gentleman, who never forgot to take heed of us on regular basis. I soon found out that my owner was also rather slovenly in his handling of those of us under his care. I suffered some bodily damages as a result of his physical negligence. Along with the penciled annotations I received at his hand, I also became heavily dog-eared by him; moreover, my front cover was branded with the outline of a cup; and my spine was nearly snapped in twain. But, all things considered, I was merely happy to be attended to by a good reader such as he surely was. I remained for about five years in this rather not unpleasant condition, during which I was read over by my Master carefully at least two times---‘tis an excellent rate nowadays for any book. Unfortunately, my owner was driven into bankruptcy, and at the injunction of his creditors was forced to sell most of his possessions to remain, as people say, above water. Consequently, I was separated from him and the other books and carried to a university library somewhere in Manhattan.

This stage of my life that I am about to relate was by far the most challenging yet. At first the kind librarians, to their credit, did greatly attend to my health in erasing all pencil marks in me and restoring my spine to a more auspicious condition. However, soon I was bedaubed with some sort of identification sticker, which recorded my place of confinement, which was glued to the bottom of my newly-restored spine.  I was about six years old when I thus found myself placed on a shelf, squeezed very tightly between other books, in a remote corner of the library. I remained in this state of circumscription for many, many years; indeed I know not how long I was holed up in this spot, for never once was I perused or taken home by any of the goodly university fellows the whole time I resided there.    

Living in that university library was a most dreadful experience indeed, as I was completely deprived of human attention. The company of books around me, most of whom, by that point in their lives, resigned themselves to a fate of never being adopted by a reader, the books around me, I say, rather than offering any solace to a lonely creature, served but merely as frightening reminders of what I feared would become of me. From communicating with some of them I concluded that being sent to a university library was, to put it mildly, a blessing of a highly mixed nature---one’s fate is either to be studied closely by a series of devoted young scholar---who are known to be the best readers among all other types of educated people---or one is stacked in some university with students, to put it mildly, of a more liberal attitude towards reading and towards paper books. 

My first major fright occurred when I began to notice a layer of dust settling upon me, as it began to emerge that no callow Aristotle would come to escort me home with him even for a day. Soon I began to notice my pages showing yellow around the edges. How I was driven to distraction some of the times! How I was made beside myself! And how upon such occasions I did rail madly upon the world for many hours at a time! But my oaths and execration did little to affect what I understood as my dreadful fate! I was moved to a few different corners of the library during my stay there, but neither area of occupancy affected my chances of being noticed by a reader. So I remained in this state of patient despair for I know not how long, awaiting that reader that I could come to love (and one who could stay out of jail too).  

As for what I am actually about, of that I can say very little. ‘Tis a common misconception among all the people that books somehow can read themselves. This notion is so absurd that I will not even waste any words refuting it. Needless to say, every piece of knowledge I gained about my self occurred through my interactions with all my readers.

To return to my story, leading up to the end of my stay at the university, there was undertaken some restoration project on the building where I was then busy cursing my fate, and I was discarded along with thousands of other books. We were separated from each other after many years of our dumb cheek-by-jowl confinement. 

I was around thirteen years old when I was thus released from the university.

I was taken in a truck to the Bronx, New York, to a very big warehouse. There was much constant activity in the warehouse, which was rather entertaining for me to watch, with the same group of people always walking back and forth, carrying away and packing different sorts of objects; but, alas, no one taking much time to read me. However, I was delivered from this warehouse in a short period of time, and handed over to some rough postal workers, who relayed me to the place I am now, in your lovely apartment, Mr. Samuel Richardson.  

You have treated me kindly and been a great reader of me ever since then, and I would like to thank you. Now I go. Take care.”

1 comment:

  1. What a brilliant account of your travails, dear tome! I am delighted that you have found a place in such a worthy master's domicile. Yours sincerely, Minette Chaiselounge