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bear by san

March 2017



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bear by san

if a tree falls in the forest--

(because truepenny said I had to blog this, pursuant to a conversation we had over the weekend)

I've been thinking a lot, today, about how books are not stories.

I am weird among writers, in that I don't fetishize books.

As a reader, I don't care about signed copies (although it's nice to get them from the writer personally--but that's a matter of sentimental value rather than the signature: It's "hey, I made you this.") I don't care what condition my secondhand copies are in, as long as they're intact enough to read.

I prefer mass market paperbacks to hardcovers or trades, because first of all, I hate holding up big books to read them, and they're heavy, and they don't fit in the pocket of my favorite red blazer, either. And I feel bad if I trash a thirty-dollar book.

And I do trash books. I prop them open face-down, I write in the margins of my research books, I use dust jacket inside flaps as bookmarks. I could care *less* about books.

I'm a freak. I know it. You don't need to tell me. I don't give a good god-damn about books, as long as they're wieldy and easy to read.

What I do fetishize is stories. The thing that's one-half contained in the physical object, the book, and one-half contained in the reader's head, and one-half contained in the sapce between them. A book is an object. A story is a performance. It's a performence carried out by a cast of one for an audience of one. It's ephemeral, and it can never be duplicated, although it can be reprised by rereading the book.

Still, the experience won't be exactly the same. You may skim different bits, and focus differently, and you may be sick--and the story will come out different than last time. Especially as it will be informed by last time.

What I'm saying is that, as far as I'm concerned, a story that isn't being read doesn't exist. It serves no purpose. It is only a potential; Schrodinger's Story, until it's read. And then the story exists, emerges in the space between book and reader, and becomes larger than the sum of its parts.

(Hey, I said I fetishized stories.)

So, I guess what I'm saying is that for me, a book is a physical object. But a story is a conversation.

In other news, I've just started reading Guy Gavriel Kay's The Last Light Of The Sun. So far, so good.


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So what about stories in magazines? Do you take good care of those? I'm not rereading a story in an issue of last year's Asimovs, and I'm despairing that the magazine is getting worn, and I will either have to take better care of it so it doesn't fall apart, or hope the story is reprinted in an anthology.
Nope. If anything, I treat magazines worse, and usually I give books or magazines away when I've read them, unless I think they're rereadable, or reference books.
*g* I don't feel bad about it at all! And I agree--it's just that. They're meant to be loved, not admired.

(Art books, I take care of, though.)

But other people do seem to think I'm a freak because I crack spines.
I am completely with you. It's Book Gnosticism.
"Book nosticism." I love it.
Everyone thinks I'm weird because I don't like hardcover books. I like paperbacks that I can carry around so I can read everywhere.

The few signed copies of books that I treasure are those where the author and I are more than just writer/fan.
Yup. I tend to wedge my reading into spare nanoseconds, and hardcovers are a pain in the butt to lug around.

And with you on the signatures, too.

And the corollary that had us tied in knots:

When you say "book," you mean the book. When you say "story," you mean the story.

Whereas I, in casual, or even not so casual conversation, use the two words interchangeably, unless I am for some reason specifically talking about the material object. I'll even call novel-length stories "books" despite the fact that they do not exist in book-form.

Bear is precise in her terminology. ph33r her.
Only in this one particular instance. Unless I'm arguing semantics. And then I should be shot.
Totally w/ you on the book is objects part. I tend to share alot of books w/ a friend and have to obsess when I borrow them since he throws a fit if I return them w/ dog ears or he sees me do that (which is weird since he has no problem breaking spine of a paberback when he's reading it). And my dislike of hardbacks is mostly that they don't stack as well on bookshelves. That said, I still abhor going to a library for some reason. Buying the story holds the attraction for me *shrugs* Though I'd be alot richer if I borrowed I suppose.

That said, is The Last Light of The Sun new? Don't see it printed in the previous works of the two books of Kay's that I have. After adjusting to the translations for Tigianna, he has rapidly become a new fave.
It's his newest one, and in hardback, thus prompting the rant. Everything I want to read right now is in hardback. I have a six-foot pile of hardbacks and trades on my desk.

Freaking hardbacks.

I feel about, and treat, books just as you do, and I agree with your comments on stories. I'm just sayin'.
Wow. There's like a whole underground of book-abusers out here.

We're an oppressed minority! Huzzah!

Re: love that hurts so good

Stories live in heads, but they're stored in books, if that makes sense.

EXACTLY what I was trying to say, much more concisely.

Re: footnote

Yes! yesyesyes! I have this ongoing dispute with a good friend because she collects Barbies--the fact that they're Barbies is a whole 'nother issue--and never takes them out of the boxes. Never holds them, never plays with them, never changes their outfits or their hair. Just puts them on her bookshelves in their boxes (in front of the books! eek!). I have some very collectible dolls and they're all out of box--I treat them well, but dolls were meant to be touched, and have their clothes changed, and be played with by the nieces that I trust.

Otherwise, they're just...bits of plastic and fabric in boxes.

And your post made me realize I'm the same way about books. I have no real preference for paperback or hardback, I do read while I'm eating--and in the bathtub--and I will highlight or dogear in a pinch, if it's not an expensive book. But I teach the little ones not to throw books or color in them, and I use bookmarks and pagepoints and post its when I can lay hands on them.

I've just come off 14 months of having no access to most of my books--and dolls. Now that I can touch them, read them, interact with them, they're alive again, and I feel a profound sense of relief.
Here's my odd fetish: if a book doesn't contain a story, it's not a book. Thin Thighs in 30 Days is not a book. Histories and biographies are not books unless they present their contents in a narrative style. Only stories are books.

(How strange is it that I detested The Fionavar Tapestry but have really loved all the rest of Kay's books?)
I think I agree. Those other things are compendiums.

Volumes of poetry are books, though. As are collected essays.
You're not so weird - at least about the books. I don't take care of mine either. Dust jacket flaps AREN'T supposed to be used as bookmarks and do all that other stuff you were talking about? I don't care about how good a condition the book is in. I LOVE used bookstores (Half-Price Books ROCKS!). I almost always go for the "used" section of Amazon, Half.com, etc. - and if I can get one in new condition, all the better.

But then, I'm also freakin' cheap. I hate paying RETAIL for ANYTHING. The only time I do that is when I'm buying directly from the author at a convention or signing or something (I'm a soft touch that way).
Haven't had time to read the comments, but as someone who just dropped a book in the washing machine and is now continuing to read it by prying about the stuck dried pages, I love this. And I feel the same way. I'm very hard on books and prefer paperbacks. It is, it's the conversation that counts

I want the stories. The main reason I care about the books are as the carrier of the stories.
Count me among the book abusers too. While I do have a few books I treasure and take care of besides art books *g* (the absolute fav being the 1931 edition of A Room of One's Own from the Hogarth Press), I mostly treat them badly, crack their spines, write in them, and mark pages by folding down the corner.

The books of mine that look new are the ones where I didn't get past the first chapter.
This isn't weird; it's pretty common among writers I've known, in fact.

I remember getting to know Joanna Russ a little bit, many years ago in Seattle, and being startled at the way she'd tear one story out of a book and throw the rest away. The artifact one one of her living-room shelves that most impressed me was her first-edition hardcover of Le Guin's The Dispossessed, the margins of which Joanna had filled with her own notes and comments. I rather hope that copy still exists somewhere...
That's a great story.

I've spent a large part of my life being lectured for how I treat books. *g* So it's awfully nice to discover all my fellow heathens here!
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