Thursday, July 20, 2017

Book 'em

I am an avid reader. Magazines, newspapers, pamphlets, papal bulls, cereal boxes, stuff on the internet. I love reading. I even downloaded a couple of books onto my phone so that if I'm ever trapped in some stygian place of boredom, I can read some of the collected works of Ring Lardner while I whine wait.

I've been collecting books since childhood. I would have had to build a new wing onto the house if I had kept them all, so I winnow the library by repurposing used books at the Book Thing or the Goodwill or the late, deeply missed Smith College Club of Baltimore Book Sale. 

The first place I check in Dollar Tree is the book section! Believe me, they have sold off some remaindered books there that I have enjoyed for a buck. And Goodwill and yard sales are always good places to get more, too.

I tend to feel a bit...uneasy...if I am in a home or office with no books. Of course, I am already uneasy in most homes and offices to begin with.

Food and the City by Ina YalofAnd there is, of course, the wonderful Baltimore County Public Library, home of thousands of free-for-the-loaning volumes. When I tell friends in other countries of the magnificent building where one can read or get on a public computer or take part in a reading club or borrow music or movies for free, they are flabbergasted, and often gobsmacked on top of it all.

But lately I was witness to a serious crime involving the library. One might even put it in the felony classification. I have a call in to the State's Attorney's Office about it.  Here's what happened:  I signed out a copy of "Food And The City," in which writer Ina Yalof does Studs Terkel-style interviews with people in New York involved in distributing, purchasing, preparing, cooking and serving food - from those tony places where they gouge $32 out of you for a hamburger to those pizza places run by guys named Tony where $32 will get you the world on two pies. I love books about this sort of thing, especially when they remind me that kitchen personnel work 12-14 hour shifts on their feet in cramped, unbearably hot conditions and rarely even get to see their families (if any). That reminds why of why I am glad I didn't go into that line of work.

But when I started to read the book, I found that one of the previous library patrons who had read it had dogeared pages as he or she went along, marking their places because they are too bloody lazy to get up and find a bookmark or a used envelope or just the postcard from the dentist, John Wilkes Tooth, with a reminder that it's been a few years now, and time for the old onceover. 

This person dogeared the pages of a book that did not belong to them. Dogeared pages.

Now, if it's your book, feel free to gnaw off the corners if you want or write notes and remarks in the margins or highlight it with neon pink or do whatever else you wish to do.  It's your book.  

A library book belongs to everyone, and dogeared corners mean that corner might just drop off, and then you've got anarchy! 

Here's a line of work I might get into. If the county library wishes to hire me to track down these brutal book abusers, I hereby volunteer to find out who they are and where they live, and serve them with legal papers printed on crisp, unbent paper.  

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