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.