IF ONLY BOOKS COULD TALK
Best-selling Malaysian author LYDIA TEH imagines what books would say to us if only they could speak their mind
WE BOOKS like to be owned by book lovers who treat us with deference, as if we’re better than cold hard cash. They wrap our covers in plastic to preserve our looks. They flip our pages gently. Fastidious owners go the length by reading our pages with the covers partially opened like a deep valley so that our spine won’t be unduly creased.
Alas, these people are as rare as hen’s teeth. They’re really hard to find. Instead we have to put up with a host of ugly readers with weird habits. The most common complaint we have against you people is how you mark the page. If you use bookmarks, we’re happy. Instead you choose to fold over the corner of a page so that it resembles a dog’s ear. This isn’t a complimentary look. It’s the equivalent of you wearing a shirt with the collar turned in. Not very nice, is it?
We’d rather you use something flat to mark the page instead. If you would just apply those grey cells a little, you’ll find many handy things to use if no bookmark is available. A name card, a supermarket receipt, a parking ticket, a piece of tissue paper, a dollar note or even a leaflet from the loan shark is as good as a conventional bookmark.
Some of you have the habit of marking the page by placing us with our covers splayed out like a tent. That’s a sure way of giving our spine more wrinkles, not to mention the unsightly bulge we acquire if placed in this position for a considerable length of time. Trust us, the pregnant look has never and will never be fashionable in bookdom.
We salute you for being great multi-taskers. You can do two or more things simultaneously with aplomb, like reading while eating. Though we admire the way you place equal emphasis on sustenance for both body and mind, we implore you to be careful when indulging in such calisthenics. While pastry flakes and cake and biscuit crumbs can be easily dusted off, messy stuff such as spaghetti, curry noodles and wantan mee will stain us with splashes of orange, red and black. We’re not blank canvases to be painted on.
Some of you like to bring us into the bathroom for a relaxing read while you soak in the bathtub. That’s fine by us as long as you don’t get us wet and cause our pages to warp. The toilet is another thing altogether. Being subjected to the stink and noise of bowel movement is degrading enough. What’s worse is that we run the risk of contamination when you flush without closing the toilet cover. We are exposed to germs from the spray and your unwashed hands. We suspect that hygiene is not a word in your vocabulary.
Here’s another pet peeve, though not as common as the earlier ones. The culprits are those of you who read in public places such as bookstores, aeroplanes or trains. When your eyes get tired, you want to catch forty winks between pages. Sleeping with the mouth wide open is a reflex action with many of you and is hazardous for two reasons. Firstly, a snoring, gaping mouth is a blow to self-dignity even if you happen to be a beauty queen or a gorgeous hunk. Secondly, flies could easily buzz into your open orifice. The best thing to do under the circumstances is for you to open up our covers and spread us like a tent over your face. Besides providing you with self-dignity and preserving your health from foraging insects, we also shield your eyes from the glare of bright lights. Indeed we exist not just for the sole purpose of enriching the human mind. What is your complaint then, you ask. Well, have you come eyeball-to-eyeball with a garlic chomper or a halitosis sufferer? There’s your answer.
One last gripe and we’re done. When we are new, sometimes our pages tend to stick together. This is especially true for thinner quality grades such as bible paper which is used for printing bibles and dictionaries. To counter the stickiness issue, you guys dab your finger with saliva before turning over the page. This bit of saliva is better than drool which drips out of sleepy heads but be forewarned that our pages can be used to get DNA evidence should you be facing paternity suits or criminal cases. Saliva is a convenient source of DNA and its reliability can be counted on for up to 30 days if stored in cool temperatures. Thumb at your own risk.
Though we are faced with all these pet peeves, we still love mankind. It is for you that we exist, not for those detestable silverfish which eat us up.
LYDIA TEH is the best-selling author of Honk! If You’re Malaysian and Life’s Like That
Reproduced from the July-September 2008 issue of Quill