When a friend loans me a book, I keep it for an amount of time I think it might take someone who knows how to read to read a book, and then I give it back.
When my friend asks me what I thought of the book, I say something like “beautiful” or “…rectangular” which, I’ve learned, might sound vaguely literary while at the same time accurately referring to the physical object of the book itself. Moby Dick, for example, I described as “Very heavy. And hard to swallow.” My friend never said anything about them but I wonder if she noticed the teeth marks.
My friends are an intellectual bunch. When I visit my friend William’s house, for example, it’s expected that I will peruse his bookshelves with a furrowed brow and a scrutinizing look. William will rush over excitedly.
“I’ve got just the one for you!” he will say, “I’ve been dying to know what you’d think of it!” And he will extract a book from somewhere and hand it to me and I will look down at it and flip though a few cryptic pages and say something like “hmm.” Then I will take it home and add it to my collection.
It used to worry me, this whole routine, but now I’ve truly come to appreciate everything about books besides what they are about, of which I have no clue.
A book might be “benign” or “painful” depending on how it feels when I drop it on my bare foot.
I taste one page, and then the next. I pause for comparison. “Bitter at the beginning, sweet towards the end”; “pulpy”; “mild”.
-- And when I examined my inky tongue in the mirror: “dark.”
“Incisive,” I might say, or “dull” depending on how well the back cover slices into a semi-soft cheese.
“Inflammatory” if it makes my neck sore after I use it as a pillow.
“Deep” I'll say if my fish, Damien, likes it. But I don’t toss that word around. He’s very selective.
Unfortunately the amount of abuse and destruction applied to the books I borrow has only further convinced my friends of my absolute love of reading. They just keep giving me more.
I built myself a small side table out of their books, upon which I rest my coffee in the morning while I sit in bed and make origami from the newspaper, which still gets delivered. Because I don’t know how to make it stop, but also because of which I’ve become quite good at origami.
The other day my neighbor and I passed in the front hall and he noticed me recycling a newspaper.
“What do you make of the election results?” he asked.
I held up the tattered paper. “Eleven swans and a tugboat.”