From the moment I started to read books my parents insisted on their proper treatment.
To turn the pages from the edge closer to the spine was illegal in our home. We were taught to lovingly caress our books and turn our pages from the outermost corner with great delicacy.
Books were not meant to be treated harshly by leaving them face down on the page you were on. Dog ears were punishable offences and we never DARED write in our books (even in pencil) ...
I just lurrrved re-covering my mum's old 1964 Oxford dictionary
... in fact we didn't WANT to write in our books. We were courtly lovers. Any precious book was adorned in a pristine cloak of clear plastic and forever preserved in perfection.
It's different for my husband.
Not long after I met my husband he told me with gritted teeth how he once read a Tim Winton book. He hated every minute of it but kept reading in the hope that it would get better. When he got to the end, he claimed to have kicked the book around the room for several hours.
I had to stop and think for a minute if I wanted to continue my relationship with him.
Cue theme music from Psycho... my husband's copy of Furrow.
Writer Anne Fadiman in a brilliant essay describes herself as a carnal lover of books. To her, books are meant to be devoured in word and physicality. Her son at 8 months would eat any book he held.
To us, a book's words were holy, but the paper, cloth, cardboard, glue, thread, and ink that contained them were a mere vessel, and it was no sacrilege to treat them as wantonly as desire and pragmatism dictated. Hard use was not a sign of disrespect but of intimacy.
Since I got married I have been known to leave a book face down on my bedside table... but as my dad says, it's just plain annoying to to read a book that someone else has written in. How can you decide for yourself what the main points really are?!!
So what are you, a carnal or courtly lover of books?
Tomorrow: how will you let your children treat their books?
A tale of Public Library Embarrassment