TCD Question #2 - Do Books Have Their Own Identities?

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TCD Question #2 - Do Books Have Their Own Identities?

Unread postby Liz » Tue Aug 05, 2008 9:44 am

Pg. 60: “I still say it doesn’t have to be a forgery. Books often differ even if they’re part of the same edition. No two books are the same really. From birth they all have distinguishing details. And each book lives a different life: it can lose pages, or have them added or replaced, or acquire a new binding…..Over the years two books printed on the same press can end up looking entirely different. That might have happened to this one.” Can you relate this quote to any books that you have read? Do books have their own identities?
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Re: TCD Question #2 - Do Books Have Their Own Identities?

Unread postby Parlez » Tue Aug 05, 2008 10:33 am

I think he's talking here about antiquarian books mostly, and what happens to them over longer expanses of time, depending on the whims of their various owners who want to preserve them. I don't have much familiarity with books that are so old that they've been subjected to such alteration/restoration one way or another. However, in the catagory of antiquarian books, it's nice to think there was a time when authors and publishing houses actually cared about things like the quality of paper, type of print, and longevity of bindings for their books. If so much care and enthusiam went into those material aspects of a book one could say each book was, indeed, one-of-a-kind and unique, with it's own identity.

I can't say that today's books share that anthropomorphic aspect, but I do firmly believe each book, even today, has it's own destiny. Think of the number of times you've gone into a bookstore looking for a specific book only to discover another one (or several others) that catch your attention and tell you (in their own persuasive way) that they must be taken home and read by you... Bookstore staff see this all the time; so much so that they say, more often than not, books find their customers instead of the other way around. :hypnotic:
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Re: TCD Question #2 - Do Books Have Their Own Identities?

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Tue Aug 05, 2008 11:33 am

I think I'd agree with Parlez about Atiquarian books. I don't think it applies to our mass produced books we have now.
And no I can't relate it to any I've read.

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Re: TCD Question #2 - Do Books Have Their Own Identities?

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Aug 05, 2008 11:47 am

I agree about antiquarian books having more of an individual identity because of they way they were produced as opposed to our mass produced volumes of today however I do have books that have a very special identity to me. Obviously my ONBC books because I have scribbled so many notes, underlined, turned down corners they stand out. Each book and each discussion have a personality of their own. Of course the markings are my individual changes but having another copy of the same book would not hold the same meaning for me. Some modern day books have different covers or have pages laid out differently. I can go back and look at books I have read in the past, college textbooks, novels, nonfiction, biographies and each have a memory associated with them, a water stain on the cover, a coffee spill inside. Again those are my changes but they still make those books unique and special to me. I have a cookbook that belonged to my mother. The spine is worn and I have to be careful not to lose any pages. I need to have it rebound and that will change it's character.
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Re: TCD Question #2 - Do Books Have Their Own Identities?

Unread postby Parlez » Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:27 pm

Oh that's interesting, DitHoT! I hadn't thought about the reader making their own marks in a book and thereby giving it its own identity. I come from the old school that says you're supposed to keep a book 'pristine' and not make any marks in it whatsoever. So I'm a sticky-note reader, making notes on separate pieces of paper instead of in the book itself. And should I underline in a book, I do it in pencil and always go back and erase the evidence when I'm finished. Funny the quirks we have regarding the handling of books!
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Re: TCD Question #2 - Do Books Have Their Own Identities?

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:46 pm

Parlez wrote:Oh that's interesting, DitHoT! I hadn't thought about the reader making their own marks in a book and thereby giving it its own identity. I come from the old school that says you're supposed to keep a book 'pristine' and not make any marks in it whatsoever. So I'm a sticky-note reader, making notes on separate pieces of paper instead of in the book itself. And should I underline in a book, I do it in pencil and always go back and erase the evidence when I'm finished. Funny the quirks we have regarding the handling of books!

Me too I hate to see books "defaced". :lol:

Having said that I often like to see whats been written in old books at the front

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Re: TCD Question #2 - Do Books Have Their Own Identities?

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:53 pm

Parlez, I am that way if the book doesn't belong to me like a library book or a book borrowed from a friend. If it's mine though I'll scribble away. :writer:
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Re: TCD Question #2 - Do Books Have Their Own Identities?

Unread postby lizbet » Tue Aug 05, 2008 1:18 pm

Years ago I owned a vintage hardcover British edition of Brideshead Revisited - it wasn't particularly valuable to anyone but myself but it was the book which started me off on a love affair with British lit. - I loved how that edition felt in my hands - the cover - the paper - plus it was the result of a hunt through second hand stores etc etc. - it was a book which found me! It took pride of place on my bookshelves until I moved one too many times and well that particular book somehow went one way and I went another :-? I have had several North American paperback editions since but none of these has spoken to my heart the way that first copy did. Of course the text is the same but the book wasn't. I'm not doing a very good job of this but I had a relationship with that early BR that I don't have with its replacements. As much as I love 'a great deal' from amazon or chapters online - I still prefer snooping among used books (yardsales, flea markets, used books stores where they still exist) hoping for a surprise like that day in the mideighties when a scarlet red bookcover dulled by age and use caught my eye and well the rest as they say is history. :blush: PS there isn't a name for what I have is there?!!
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Re: TCD Question #2 - Do Books Have Their Own Identities?

Unread postby lizbet » Tue Aug 05, 2008 1:46 pm

"Destiny" - yes - that's it - some books are destined to be with their owners - or even just their readers! Pre computerization, patrons used 'card catalogues' to find what they were looking for. How many of us went home with something other than what we went for - and - how many of us were more excited about that serendipitous discovery than the stogy old title we went for in the first place!?

"Defacing" - how can one deface something one owns!? Though I must admit I never marked that vintage edition of Brideshead Revisited - but once I realized that I could make margin notes and highlight my Bible without bringing down the wrath of the book publishing / Bible publishing gods - I haven't looked back - and I haven't read anything in the same way since! Like Parlez I also use sticky notes (but over time even 3M adhesive gives way and you loose them or worse they discolour the page) and especially with ONBC selections I even use a full page (tri folded) for more notes - but sometimes a note just cries out to be written in the margins and its there for those of us who revisit favorite books again and again - "defacing" never - not even like the medievil monks who after peering over their shoulders while working in their scriptoriums add a word or two to the text - its more like a journal entry there as a reminder the next time the two of you meet! I suppose for that reason I have a difficult time sharing my books as so much of myself is scribbled in margins and stuffed between the pages!?
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Re: TCD Question #2 - Do Books Have Their Own Identities?

Unread postby bluebird » Tue Aug 05, 2008 2:26 pm

Parlez wrote:I can't say that today's books share that anthropomorphic aspect, but I do firmly believe each book, even today, has it's own destiny. Think of the number of times you've gone into a bookstore looking for a specific book only to discover another one (or several others) that catch your attention and tell you (in their own persuasive way) that they must be taken home and read by you... Bookstore staff see this all the time; so much so that they say, more often than not, books find their customers instead of the other way around. :hypnotic:


I've never quite thought about it this way, Parlez, but, yes, destiny is the right word for it... I remember one time in a bookstore picking up a book and glancing at it, then I put it down.... and walked away... I went back to it two more times and finally took it home with me. It's one of my favorites!! I was trying to fight destiny!! :lol: :lol:
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Re: TCD Question #2 - Do Books Have Their Own Identities?

Unread postby Liz » Tue Aug 05, 2008 3:33 pm

What interesting thoughts from everyone on this! :applause2:

I am very careful not to deface library books or books borrowed from others. But I deface away on my own books. Those are the ones that mean the most to me. But there are others that mean a lot either because they were my favorites or represent a time of my life or were those special books that you read to your kids. In fact, the children’s books are the ones that are falling apart. But as DITHOT said, replacing a dear book with a new one just wouldn’t be the same. And I make sure I follow up with those who I’ve lent favorite books to. My son left Fear & Loathing in the classroom at the end of last year. Much correspondence with the English teacher and the clerical staff ensued in trying to locate that book. I finally got it back three months later.

I have never experienced book “destiny” in the book store or library. However, I experience it all the time in other ways. I’d say October 2003 was big in that regard. I think every book that I read for ONBC, in my local book group and in the ones that people recommend to me were meant to be read by me for some reason. Pigs in Heaven was one of those that someone sent me to read. It has a wine stain on it, BTW. It was another one that was not easy to get back after lending it to someone.
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Re: TCD Question #2 - Do Books Have Their Own Identities?

Unread postby magpie » Tue Aug 05, 2008 3:55 pm

I can definitely relate to what everyone has said about a book holding special meaning. As a child, I remember my great-aunt reading from a Bible story book to all of us kids in her class (she taught 1st & 2nd grade). When she died, that book was the one thing I wanted most of hers--only to find out that she specifically left all her books to me! That Bible story book doesn't even have a cover, but if I could replace it new I wouldn't want to.
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Re: TCD Question #2 - Do Books Have Their Own Identities?

Unread postby Parlez » Tue Aug 05, 2008 4:25 pm

This is so insightful: how we regard books! I remember being in the 1st or 2nd grade and the teacher handing out readers (Fun With Dick and Jane, no doubt :lol: ) and telling us in no uncertain terms that these books were very expensive and hard to come by and that we were very lucky to be able to each have our own copy...and to treat 'em with respect. Such was the post-war public school mentality back then. Ergo, there was to be NO defacing of the printed page, NO breaking of a book's spine, etc.,etc..

All these years later I still hold to that ethic. And I really hate it when I pick up a library book or a used book and see it all messed up with highlighter and margin notes. I could care less what passages someone else has chosen to highlight or what personal notes they've chosen to illucidate in the text. However, I admit that, while I don't use my books in a journalistic way, I do write extensively about the books I'm reading in my journal. So I guess I take the backwards approach to said illucidation!

Another thing I learned while employed in a bookstore: people tend to think that if they own the book they own the knowledge contained in it as well. This is true particularly with textbooks and, ironically, with self-help books. (!) Once I got over the need to own books (after spending tons of money and ending up with a library consisting of a bunch read-and-toss junk) I came to the conclusion that I'm the temporary guardian of the books in my possession...they can move on, and often do, via gifting or theft or whatever mysterious disappearance, and it's okay. That is their destiny.

The few books in my collection that I do value, though, would be very hard to replace. Not because they're mine, or because I couldn't get a fresh copy, but because they originally belonged to someone I loved. :lilyrose:
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Re: TCD Question #2 - Do Books Have Their Own Identities?

Unread postby Kate_with_a_K » Tue Aug 05, 2008 4:58 pm

I share your memories of books in grade school, Parlez, except that I was in a parochial school. I think we never quite appreciated how privileged we were to not have to share books, as many of the children in my town have had to do in recent years.

I also recall going to the school in late Aug - early Sept to work with the nuns on repairing all the books for the year - taping the little tears in the pages that are bound to happen, so they wouldn't get worse.

I think that today, many people don't respect books. I was looking for a specific book for my granddaughter's birthday, and the only copy in the book store was in worse condition than the one we've been reading from for several years!

I haven't been reading TCD, but I do believe books have their own identity, as every owner treats his or her copy differently. One definite yuck factor: I took out a library book, and found a CRACKER in between a couple of pages. :mad: I returned it without reading it. For that reason (as similar things have happened many times previously), I either request the book from the library once I've read a good review (or followed a favorite author and know a new book is coming out) so that I can get a clean copy! When I'm 72nd on the list, I either buy it at Costco or wait for the paperback. I do have quite a few read-and-toss books lying around, but am really trying hard to do better.

I agree also about what is irreplaceable. Number one on my list is a gift from an old friend that has very little monetary value.
"I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers." - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

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Re: TCD Question #2 - Do Books Have Their Own Identities?

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Tue Aug 05, 2008 5:15 pm

I guess I don't have the same feeling for books as everyone else, I'm always getting rid of them :lol:


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