The controversy of dog-earing pages

There are a lot of things that etiquette dictates we don’t talk about in polite conversation, not because they are distasteful but instead because they’re polarizing and often antagonistic. Religion, politics, unions, and recently, vaccinations all fall into this category.

Between readers, I’ve found almost nothing starts an argument more easily than “to fold or not to fold” (except for a discussion of  Twilight… but I’ll save that for another post). To be clear, I don’t think that dog-earing pages actually equates in significance to any of the big issues that have people protesting and legislating and committing violence. However, if you want to see tempers flare among introverted, mild-mannered booksellers, I dare you to fold your pages in front of them.

I am an unapologetic page folder. That, and a general dislike of cycling, were the two things that most set me apart from my indie bookstore cohorts.

To me, a read book should look as if it was handled. It should tell a story about the reader. If the pages are folded hundreds apart, it was read in hours-long stretches. If the cover is bent or marked, it was shoved into a purse or slept on accidentally when the lateness of the hour won out over the need to keep reading. If the pages are stained, it was too good to put down while eating. If it’s unnaturally fat and wrinkled, it was read on the bank of some body of water by a clumsy reader, or it was accidentally left out in the rain. If there are notes in the margins, it was studied or beloved or both.

I could keep my books pristine by reading indoors, by stopping to eat like a civilized person, by using bookmarks (I get enough as gifts), but reading is not an activity I want to do carefully.

A colleague of mine said it best when he described books as “artifacts of our lives” (shout-out to you, Duncan Stewart). They are not just a medium to receive information or decorations for our house. They are not just commodities.

They are pieces of our time in the world. They are tactile moments of education or escape, revelation or disappointment. They reflect who we were as we experienced reading them. And if that means they get a little dirty, bent, or warped along the way, all the better.

The moral, or Unromantic ever after

Good readers, is it my responsibility to write a story than embraces my belief (or lack of belief) in something or other? Do I have to agree with my own moral?

I’m working on this story. It’s a love story (don’t judge, okay?),  and it’s got me thinking.

Here’s what I don’t believe:
I don’t believe in love at first sight, soul mates, or happily ever after. Despite my own situation, I don’t think that monogamy is “right,” and I definitely don’t think that marriage is necessary. (And while engagements are something to celebrate, I also don’t think they’re an “achievement.” I would have liked people to show half as much enthusiasm at me finishing either of my degrees as they did at JT and I agreeing to continue in our successful co-habiting while wearing rings.)

Here’s what I do believe:
Relationships, like anything worth winning and worth keeping, require effort, energy, and (borrowing from Moody) constant vigilance. Most of all, I believe they require a choice — a choice you consciously make on a regular basis to be the best partner you can, to create the relationship that’s most healthy and fulfilling for you both (or all, depending on your situation).

But my story is operating on a premise in which I don’t believe – one of the aforementioned. I’m writing it because it makes me feel that soppy hopefulness that love stories should make you feel, but I fear I’m perpetuating a myth that Disney implanted within every child of my generation and which I can point to as a direct cause of the singleness of at least a couple of my friends — the myth of “meant to be.”

If I have convictions, I have a duty, at least to myself, to find a way to make my “unromantic” notions of love into something aspirational. I’ll have to learn to write the kind of love I believe in, even if that means shelving that soppy hopeful feeling for a while.

A reading slump not directly related to Netflix?

Hey folks. Usually when I’ve gone a while without reading, I can directly point to Netflix binge-watching as the cause. Not this month. For some reason, my (varied and dare I say impressive) to-be-read list sits unappreciated and untouched, while the “Suggestions for you” list on Netflix seems equally unappealing. Are the slowly lengthening days inspiring me to more active pursuits? Has my time spent writing increased? To both of these, I’ve got to say no. It is a mystery that remains unsolved.

So back to reading. The last thing I want is for reading to become a chore, so instead of forcing myself into one of the to-be-read books, I’m going to kick-start my reading mood with a beloved classic. I’m thinking the first in the A Dream of Eagles series… or maybe a couple Harry Potter picks. Ooh! Or To Kill a Mockingbird.

Okay. Now I’m excited again.