It's true. I am very careful with books and try to keep new ones in pristine condition. I am sorry, books, that I cannot save you all from the plight of having your spines cruelly split or suffering the ignominy of dog-eared pages, but just know that I love you and if you come to live with me you will be read once or twice and then live out the rest of your lives on my shelf with just yellowing pages and a layer of dust revealing your ages. I know I have a problem but I quietly mourn for those poor books with their ripped covers and cellotaped pages. It probably stems from being one of six children growing up in a house with very few new items to call our own so when we were given something as special as a new book, it was greater than any treasure.
It got me thinking about the books I have in my possession and what they say about me. I know you know that I have a little bit of a thing for Sweet Valley High books and light literature, but I have enough self-respect to never put those books out on my shelves for visitors to see. That is my (and now your) dirty little secret. Most of the books on the shelf are literary powerhouses and mainly there for display purposes only. Some of those books are planted there just to make me look smarter than I actually am.
Buying brand new books remains a rarity. They are so expensive in stores here so borrowing from friends and purchasing secondhand books at garage sales and on Trade Me tend to keep me in good supply. You may have noticed the absence of any mention of going to the library. I have public library issues. It stems from when I was in my early 20's and blissfully ignorant of how truly filthy some people are. I had borrowed this one book from the local library and was lying on my bed reading it, when I turned a page and a bogey fell out and landed on my top. I tried hard not to think about it as I flicked it off and briefly wondered whether I could have been mistaken and it was in fact someone's fingernail clipping (because I'd have been totally down with that), but that moment of complete foulness has stayed with me. Since then, I have borrowed books with pages held fast by bits of food, with entire sections ripped out and once I read a book with what looked like dried blood smeared across its pages. I just despaired of it all and wondered whether I just had bad luck with borrowing books from public libraries and why was I being punished by all the piggy people?! It's like a special gift, only it's a curse.
I had delved into The Pact by Jodi Picoult while on our long weekend holiday last month. It had me gripped from the start with the lives of two families intertwined and torn apart by an apparent suicide pact. As fast as I tried to read it, I could only manage to get two thirds of the way through and had to leave it behind since it belonged to the bach owner. Unperturbed, I felt sure one of my friends would be a J Pi lover, but sadly, not one person owned a copy of this book which instantly made me question my friendship with these people. I contemplated ensconcing myself in the aisle of a book shop to read the remainder in installments such was my commitment to doing anything that would keep me from having to borrow it from the library.
It became pretty clear I'd have to pull up my princess pants and trot down to the public library because no-one really is brazen enough to read entire books in a shop (unless you're the guy who would come every lunch hour into the bookstore I used to work at to read a book from cover to cover, which makes you exactly the kind of person who deserves to have someone's dried bodily fluids fall out onto you) and I could not justify buying a brand new book when two thirds of it had already been read. This was no mean feat in itself. I dutifully checked the online library database to determine its availability, and in the space of the half hour that it took for me to drive downtown and circle the library fifteen times for a parking space to become available, someone had brazenly checked out the book.
Yes, I could have spared myself the pain of it all and paid the princely sum of $2 to reserve it, but I am tightfisted, stupid and like to suffer, plus there would be no blog post lamenting both my predicament and the sheer dearth of Jodi Picoult titles in the Wellington Public Library system.
So, nearly a whole month has gone by in my agonizing wait to find out what really happened the night Emily was killed. I know this because I continually monitored the library database for updates on whether the mystery Jodi Picoult pilferer had returned the book. Yesterday was that day. And it was kismet. I drove down there, the traffic lights were all green, I found a free parking spot almost outside the library and the book was resting on the shelf arranged in alphabetical order just like all good library books should be.
So Jodster, this book had better have a good ending, because it was a Herculean effort on my part to get a copy in my hot little hands.