Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I Have a Little Problem...

The best piece of advice I can offer is this: don't ask me to loan you a book. No doubt, I will say "Sure!", but if you watch my face closely, you'll see the pain behind the smile. I would probably loan you my small children before I would loan you a book. And if I do, I'll hand the book off to you with a list of rules, and you can be sure I will have removed the dust jacket before sending it out the door.

I have always loved the printed word, and even more than that I love the way words look when they are packaged. I have a very neurotic set of unwritten rules. Hard cover books should have glossy dust covers that are fingerprint-free, and I probably won't read it if the dust cover has crinkles or rips. At the bookstore, I will always dig to the back to find the book that hasn't seen daylight...or fingers. Hard cover books should be as elegant as a fine piece of art.

I have the same rules for soft cover books, but this is where my insanity catapults to a new galaxy. Soft cover books should never have broken spines. They shouldn't even have creases! If you want to witness me in a panic attack, accompany me on a flight sometime. Sad broken-down books are everywhere!!! Travelers from coast to coast treat their books with no more respect than a napkin. I know! I watch them. And then I wince in pain.

During my last flight home from Orlando, I sat next to a seemingly normal middle-age woman. She lovingly tucked her small daughter into the seat next to her, giving her a blanket, sippie cup and a much loved stuffed dog. She kissed the top of her head and whispered something in her daughter's ear that brought an instant giggle. I decided I liked her. But then it happened! She pulled out the novel she'd probably started on an earlier flight, and all that love disappeared. She cranked that thing open, bending the covers back so far they touched on the other side. And then she proceeded to repeatedly press the palm of her hand over the inside spine to flatten the pages out a little more. I nearly reached for the air sickness bag! And if the oxygen mask would have been in reach, it would have come in handy, too. In my mind, that sweet woman went from loving to evil in 2.14 seconds. How could someone so caring be so destructive to such a precious thing?

Having just released my first book, I proudly sat at my book-signing a few months ago with more than 700 people lined up for an autograph. After passing by my table and stepping aside to peruse the pages, I noticed most of the buyers were like the lady on the plane. They couldn’t wait to dig in and read, and in doing so, they nearly mutilated the perfect soft cover. And I nearly stood up, walked through the gymnasium and collected the books again.

You're getting this, right? You're seeing that I'm a little over the top? Well, it doesn't stop there because I haven't addressed my neurosis with magazines yet! Like books, magazine pages should never be dog-eared, never have fingerprints, nor should their covers be torn or even slightly ripped. Like books, I carefully select them off the store shelf, only purchasing copies that haven't yet been "loved" (or "unloved"). My dilemma happens when my subscriptions show up in the mailbox. I cringe every time I slide one of my new mags out of the aluminum postal box, knowing in the course of its delivery that it has already been: a) dropped, b) torn, c) read by the postman, d) run over by the mail truck, or e) snagged in the mail sorter at the post office, leaving ugly tracks across the cover. Very rarely have I received a perfect issue, yet I continue to put myself through the grueling task of renewing my subscriptions. Two years ago when my Martha Stewart Living magazine showed up in a heavy plastic wrapping, I was so pleased I wrote to the company to thank them for caring about my magazine. Two months later, they must have looked for cost-saving options because the protective cover disappeared and my April issue showed up – without a cover! I didn't even read it. There was no point.

So, you can see that I have a little problem. I care way too much about the presentation of the printed word. I don't enjoy movies because there's nothing to read. And don't even ask me if I want to borrow your set of John Grisham books on tape. words. Not interested. Thanks for thinking of me, though.

And while you're at it, don't ask to borrow any of my many books or magazines. It's not worth your stress. Or mine!!!

It’s sad, but it’s true.

God bless the printed word!

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