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The Unbearable Catastrophe of Being a Used Book

January 4, 2010

After finishing “Everything is Illuminated,” and without a clear structure to this project as of yet, I began hunting for my next read. Luckily, I didn’t have to search too hard. In my mailbox was a package with a book I had ordered, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera. I was all ready to spend my free afternoon on the sofa, alone with the book.

Now, let me tell you something about myself.

I am not a book snob. I don’t need a hard cover, first edition, brand-spanking-new book to enjoy it. However, I’m wary with buying used books because I don’t like other people’s reading habits (which is just a euphemism for “really annoying ways to violate the pages”). See, I have reading habits of my own: I always have a pen when I am reading tend to fill the margins with notes. I have a folding system–if there is a quote or passage I especially like, I dog-ear the page from the top. If I merely stop reading for a moment and shut the book, I dog-ear it on the bottom. And I sometimes put a post it in the back of the book just in case I need to write something I do not want permanently etched into the sidelines of the story. My own reading habits are quite enough damage  for a single book.

The one that was sent to me (I bought it in “Like New” condition for this very reason) is definitely, positively, ABSOLUTELY not Like New. It is decrepit and aged and falling to pieces. That’s what I get for buying it online. But even as a book deteriorates, I will read it and fill it with my little notes and dog-ears and post-its.

This particular one must have belonged to someone who also had an abundance of reading habits, underlining words that they wanted to look up in the dictionary (they marked: sublime, protuberant, inanity, irreparable, and mitigating. I think after the first chapter, all of two pages, they gave up). And when the cover fell off as I turned the third page, I momentarily gave up.

But with the help of some packing tape, I’m back on track. If you want to read along with me, go to your local used book store and pick out the crappiest available copy of “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.” That’s what I’ll be reading.

Cheers, Christine.

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