I was reading Within a Budding Grove recently, and the copy I have is an older one, the dust jacket worn and ripped in places. I like to read hardcove...moreI was reading Within a Budding Grove recently, and the copy I have is an older one, the dust jacket worn and ripped in places. I like to read hardcovers of books the best, so I can use the dust jacket as a bookmark, and so I feel like the book is solid and less likely to get creased and broken by my reading. But, this copy was delicate, and every time I touched it, I could feel it crumbling in my fingers. The book itself was a beautiful, delicate thing, like the writing and ideas on its page, like the vulnerability of its narrator. My touch was too rough and solid.
I went out and bought supplies, and made a cover for the jacket, and pasted it all back together again, so that the book would be protected from my awkward pawings.
I loaned a hardcover to a friend once, a cheap hardcover of New Moon, even, which I had bought at Target for maybe $6. The friend forgot it was mine, and by the time I discovered it in her house again, the dust jacket was lost and the pages dog-eared. I couldn’t help but feel my friend had beaten up someone I loved. And, clearly, it was an inexpensive copy of a book that is ¾ abysmally boring, but it’s not about which book it is. It is a book. If you can’t be trusted with a book, what can you be trusted with?
Books are a dream of fireplaces and hot chocolate on a snowy day. They are a vision of seeing people as they really are, of understanding what the world is and who we are in it. They are family and love and friendship. Books are small packages that contain all the possibility in the universe. Books are my favorite. And I love the pages and binding and covers as the presence of magic in the physical world.
A book holds the world of a story, but it also holds the world of our reading experiences. For years, I kept the copy of Crime and Punishment that my friend gave me, saying, “Here, I know it is good, but I can’t finish it.” It is and old, broken paperback, and I held it in my hands while I jumped at shadows and knew that at any moment a murrrrdererrrr could sneak up behind me and catch me unawares. I kept that copy of the book, even while I had other copies because the book itself absorbed my experience of reading. Last year, I gave the copy to a younger friend who hadn’t read it, a friend who was the same age I was when I read the book. Giving her my copy of the book was, for me, also giving her that experience from my life. Look at the magic these pages contain: they are Raskolnikov disintegrating at the brutality of life, they are me warily eyeing my friends at a coffee shop because they may have been planning to kill me.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a sweet little picture book about how books are all that matters in life. It is about how these little packages contain something about the essence of who we are and what we experience.
“’Everyone’s story matters,’ said Morris. And all the books agreed.”
This is a lovely book, just as the animated film made from it is lovely. It is the kind of premise I resist, maybe because it sounds too generalized or precious about The Things That Matter, but its execution is really beautiful, and I love it. Books are important. They contain the magic of other worlds and lives and the magic of our experiences living in other worlds and other lives. _________________________________ I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for nothing.(less)