Booking Through Thursday: Conditioning

October 30, 2008 at 5:25 pm | Posted in Book Blather | 5 Comments

Here is my response to today’s Booking Through Thursday.

Are you a spine breaker?  Or a dog-earer?  Do you expect to keep your books in pristine condition even after you have read them?  Does watching other readers bend the cover all the way round make you flinch or squeal in pain?

I probably fall somewhere about 2/3 of the way to the pristine end of the spectrum.  Not only would I never dog-ear a book, but when I encounter dog-eared pages I unfold them.  I am so paranoid about breaking the spines of books that I’ve actually checked out an audio version of a book a friend lent me so I wouldn’t risk mangling her copy.  Watching other readers bend a cover back causes me to berate them – I just won’t have it, particularly when it’s my book.

This is what I don’t understand about book manglers.  It’s perfectly fine in my mind for people to do whatever they want to books they’ve bought.  If you want to write in ballpoint in the margins, dog-ear pages, leave the book face down on the edge of the bathtub, or do as my grandpa does and tear off the corners and then chew and swallow them, well, it’s your book.  But!  If that book belongs to someone else, or to the library (and, by extension, to me), then it had darn well better go back in the same condition in which you got it.  To me, though, it’s a question of wantonly ruining property, whether it’s a book or a sweater.

What’s important to me is the content of the book, not the physical vessel itself.  I certainly don’t see anything sacred about mass market paperbacks, and I see a point in the future when our cars may well run on Dan Brown-based biofuel.  Most of my reading material comes from the library, where the books are solidly bound and plastic-wrapped.  So I’m not as tender with them as I probably could be.  I carry books in my bag, use them to smash spiders, read them at the table and on the treadmill and even, once, on my bicycle (Absalom, Absalom!), which is easier than you’d think, but it started to sprinkle.  Anyway.  Any books to be found in pristine condition in my house are only that way because I haven’t read them yet.

“A Good and Happy Child”

October 30, 2008 at 4:42 pm | Posted in Fiction | 1 Comment

If you’re scrambling for a scary book to read on Halloween, I’d like to recommend A Good and Happy Child.  I’ve been reading horror off and on since grade school (remember Lois Duncan?) but it had been many years since I could say a book even really creeped me out, much less actually scared me.  I started it Tuesday night, but I had to put it away before bedtime because I kept looking over my shoulder.  Last night I was reading it on the treadmill, and I had to keep stopping to check out every mysterious sound when the house settled.

Justin Evans apparently works as some sort of executive in New York.  It made me wonder just what got him to contemplating the nature of evil.  It also made me wonder whether any of his coworkers knew he was working on a book, and whether he intends to take time off now that he’s published successfully.  Will he write another book?  Will it also be a horror story?

What works about A Good and Happy Child is that it’s a very smart book.  Evans could probably write anything.  While he uses many familiar tropes, this is no genre fiction.  The story is unpredictable, and keeps you hooked until the very last paragraph.  Even then, it’s unsettling because you can still interpret the book in more than one way.  It raises questions that don’t go away once the covers are closed.

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