Sunday, March 04, 2007

Excuse for Abuse




Ben Schott has an amusing essay in today's NYT Book Review about book abuse, which essentially comes to the conclusion that "those who abuse their own books through manhandling or marginalia are often those who love books best". That is to say, the abuse of a book, when done out of love, is quite different from the destruction of books by the Nazis or, today, anti-Harry Potter evangelicals, which is done from the urge to censor.

What is also lovely about a book, in Schott's estimation, is that you can abuse it and that it will live on. He contrasts a book in this sense with a web site:
Indeed, the ability of books to survive abuse is one of the reasons they are such remarkable objects, elevated far beyond, say, Web sites. One cannot borrow a Web site from a friend and not return it for years. One cannot, yet, fold a Web site into one’s back pocket, nor drop a Web site into the bath. One cannot write comments, corrections or shopping lists on Web sites only to rediscover them (indecipherable) years later. One cannot besmear a Web site with suntan-lotioned fingers, nor lodge sand between its pages. One cannot secure a wobbly table with a slim Web site, nor use one to crush an unsuspecting mosquito. And, one cannot hurl a Web site against a wall in outrage, horror or ennui. Many chefs I know could relive their culinary triumphs by licking the food-splattered pages of their favorite cookbooks. Try doing that with a flat-screen monitor.

This made me start to feel bad about the fact that lovers of Betty & Bimbo have little in the way of physical abuse to show their affection. So, please, when you're reading this blog, spill ketchup on your screen! Drop your laptop! And perhaps even sneeze on the keyboard and neglect to wipe it off - at least for a moment.

1 comment:

venus infers said...

fabulous illustration!

however v must point out that the argument is flawed as it makes no distinction between use and abuse! the natural wear and tear in the life-cycle of the bound volume, either as beach companion or unidentified flying object, and the real abuse to which they are subjected to for instance in college libraries by overprotected suburbanite kids that have no sense of the public good: broken binding, random pages torn out, passages highlighted in gruesome colors and obnoxiously evident remarks in ink.

v is glad to agree with koko on the sadness of the utter blog-lack of physical interaction. surely, the virtual hurling of objects could replace that. v proposes a new sort of htm language, where text could prompt the reader through a set of instructions particular modes of physical interaction.

for instance: <"hurls> "book" /hurls">