Look at what my handsome Brent got me:
I have been waiting and waiting and waiting for this book to be released in paperback. We were in Hastings the other day and Brent told me to pick out a book because he was buying. Hell yes! Like a girl gone wild, I headed down the science fiction/fantasy aisle, hoping A Dance with Dragons would finally be available in paperback. There were two boys, both around the age of thirteen or fourteen, who were standing in front of the shelf that held the books in this series. I had to peer around them to see if the book was out in paperback, which it was not. The two boys also appeared to be debating a George R. R. Martin purchase, which made me feel like we had a connection. It reminded me of smoking with strangers; how the cigarette provides enough common ground to begin a conversation. In this case, A Dance with Dragons was our cigarette, and so it was only natural to talk to these kids.
Me: (shaking my head in exasperation) I can’t BELIEVE that A Dance with Dragons is still not out in paperback! Criminy!
Boy #1: I know! All my other books are the small paperbacks, and I don’t want to have one hardback in my collection.
Me: Yeah, and not only that, but look at how expensive this is. I mean, dang!
Boy #1: I guess I’m just going to have to wait.
Me: You know what? I’m just going to go for it. I can’t wait any longer. Know what I’m sayin?
I directed the “know what I’m sayin” line to Boy #2, who didn’t respond. He looked bored. I wanted to make a face at him. Too good for these books, are we, boy? You might be more interested in the back corner of the store, where you’ll find Chicken Soup for the Bedwetter’s Soul...oh, wait, he’s not bored, he’s uncomfortable. After all, these are young boys, and I am an overly friendly adult, which would qualify this encounter as ‘stranger danger’. He totally thinks I’m trying to kidnap them, which is natural because when I was a kid, I always thought people were trying to kidnap me. That was my mom’s fault; she thought the world was full of Ted Bundy types who were after our poodle Buddy and me, and in that order. Well, I’m not one to continue a conversation with people who suspect I’m trying to kidnap them. They were still standing in front of the books, and as I said goodbye to them, I reached for the book I wanted. Did Boy #2 cringe away as I leaned in? No, it must have been a trick of the lights.
I usually don’t get hardback books. I prefer my books to be paperback for a couple reasons. I find them far more ergonomic than their hardback cousins, but more importantly, paperbacks are the cheaper option of the two. I am rough on books and I can’t be spending $20.00 and more on books that will most likely end up stained with food, smudges from dirty fingers, my nose boogers, Ebby’s eye boogers, blood, dead bug guts, Brent’s spilled coffee, etc.
Sometimes the pages get warped because I like to read while taking baths. I also read while blow-drying my hair and with my particular method and the stupid amount of time it takes to dry my hair, I end up sweating all over the book.
I usually fall asleep while reading, and if my books could talk, which I’m pretty sure they can, they would grimly warn the newbie books about how awful it is to be stuck in a bed with Brent, the pugs, and me.
“Listen up, rook,” the wizened old-timer book who’s been read and re-read would instruct the wide-eyed new book (because they might as well have eyes, too),”There’s some hard-readin going on up in this mo’fo. You got to be tough to survive the mean sheets of that bed. When the dame falls asleep, you’ll crash to the floor if you’re lucky. If not, she might end up sleeping on you. If she uses you as a pillow, god help you because she drools. If you escape that, don’t work your way to those snorting wrinkle beasts. They are unpredictable and may or may not eat you. Just ask old Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I’d tell you to ask Cold Mountain, but you can’t because it was chewed to death. Lastly, the fellow “Brent” is the worse. If you brush up against him, if even the remotest corner of your spine touches any part of his body, he will curse you and then grab you and fling you out of the bed like so much rubbish. Take care of yourself, kid. I’ll see ya on the other side.”
I don’t want to give the impression that I am a careless, ungrateful, booger-flinging book killer. I love my books, but sometimes I love them too enthusiastically.
For an uncouth person such as myself, hardback books can be intimidating. There is the dust jacket to deal with. To keep it from getting wrinkled and torn, you have to remove it and put it in a safe place where it will not get damaged. Then you have to remember where you put it, and it always gets damaged anyway.
I always feel a little unnatural when I’m reading a hardback. The books are bulky and I’m worried about keeping them pristine, which in my world means ‘only kind of dirty’. This preoccupation stems from the time I upset a werewolf because I got Nacho Cheese Doritos fingerprints all over his new copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
That is no lie. He really was a werewolf. Brent and Matt were making a very short werewolf film and the guy was in full costume when I annoyed him. For his costume, Brent glued hair all over the werewolf’s face and we put press-on nails on him. Inconveniently, Brent and Matt choose to shoot the same weekend that the last Harry Potter book came out. That was an action-packed weekend for Harry Potter fans; not only did we have to stand in line for hours at Borders, but we had to be on the defensive – ready to plug our ears and say “la la la” at a moment’s notice in case some wicked person threw out a spoiler. So, back at our house, both the werewolf and I had sparkling new hardback copies of the book and in between takes, we’d sit on the couch and read our books.
At some point, our books got mixed up. The werewolf said to me, “Hey, I think I have your book. It has food all over it.” He held it out to me, eager to exchange it for his unsoiled copy.
I was a little confused because the copy I was reading also had food smudges. Nacho Cheese Doritos smudges, to be exact. Then I realized that I had dirtied up both books. For a second I considered handing him his book and pretending nothing was wrong, but that would have been wrong. Plus, he was eyeing the open bag of Doritos in my lap; clearly, he was already suspicious.
I cleared my throat. “Um, I got food in your book, too.” I wiped the Doritos dust from my mouth and gave him my beauty queen smile. “I’m so sorry.”
The werewolf was pissed. Kind of like how a real werewolf would be. I probably helped to enhance his performance, not that anybody thanked me for that. The situation was so uncomfortable that I went to Hastings and bought another Deathly Hallows book. My plan was this: the werewolf would get the brand new book; I’d keep both of the Doritoified copies which would enable Brent and me to read the book at the same time; then, we’d give one of the copies to Brent’s mom. In my mind, this plan made me a hero. In reality, it only made the situation more uncomfortable with the werewolf.
I understand why he was angry. He is a werewolf and that is his nature. But also, hardback books are not merely reading material; they are an investment. They are a statement that says, “I care enough about this book and author that I want to purchase the most aesthetically pleasing format to adorn my bookshelf. I want it to be bound in such a way that it will last forever, so that I may cherish it forever. This book is special and so am I.”
I am not being facetious here. Consider the two copies of Anne of Green Gables below. Which would you rather have? The hardback version* is simply luscious and it has illustrations that were present in early printings of the book. The paperback is warped** and has a picture of Megan Follows on the cover.
That’s another thing about paperbacks. Why do they use images from the movies? I don’t mind Megan Follows being on the cover of my paperback because the first two movies were nearly perfect. I’m not talking about you, Anne of Green Gables the Continuing Story. I hate you.
With all this being said, and my overall preference for paperback, I am in the middle of reading A Dance with Dragons and I am luxuriating in this hardback experience. The pages are thicker and the maps are much easier to read than in the my paperback versions of earlier books in the series. The book smells so good, I open it up to random pages and sniff away. Reading this book is like stepping into a hot tub. Look at the embossing, but please ignore the dirty fingerprints. I’m not perfect, okay.
*Thank you Liz, I love you and I love my present!
**Or should I say raggedy, as in Raggedy Ann***, another famous redhead. That was a good pun.
***One of my most fervent dreams is that Brent will someday dress up as Raggedy Andy for Halloween. I don’t want it to be a couples thing where I’m Raggedy Ann, I just want Brent to be Raggedy Andy.