Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Lachrymosity of Books

Books as Tools, 
Books as Stools,
Wet the Rain Comes,
Who are the Fools?

Do books really cry?  I suppose it depends upon whom you ask.  Now of course, I had to take a photo of this: no, not some apparition or claim that a book is literally crying or seeping some "lachrymotic" fluids, as profusely or mellifluously as Padre Pio and his fuchsia scented and infused palms of glory.  No, I had seen upon entering my parking area at home my neighbor's car.  A few days before it had a sagging muffler.  In fact, it was nigh completely fallen off!  Well, yesterday it had been re-attached with some sort of baling wire, and jacked up a few inches for the repair.  But what actually caught my eye was that among the supportive utensils was a book!  Yes, first the fine hard lumps of concrete (two, in fact), then a brick, dull red and baked presumably a century ago in some east-coast brick making oven, and then, topping off the make-shift lift, the finest of the classic world encyclopedias: a 1994 volume of Britannica!  It was a volume on the "Future of Science," at least what I could make out from it.  (Believe me, it was hard to see the title on this one!)

But when I woke up this morning, around 4:50AM, it was the most crushing sound of a downpour.  The clouds above wove into one another like tumultuous personalities of politicians, bobcats, or seminary presidents, and produced a fine dumping of well-deserved rain; not to mention a bounty of thunder and lightening.  Not too much later, after not attempting more restful sleep, and laboring under poor light to read a little more of the life and times of Leo Tolstoy, I had a thought: "those poor books outside...getting all wet!"  It was, in fact, too late.  And I must admit, I did  not have the same feeling for these plain sorted Britannicas as I might for say some fine copy of the Da Vinci Code, wait, skip that.  You get the idea.  I'll let the rain fall on that one.  

But the point is that I had recommitted myself to addressing the place of the Britannica; to go out in the rain, which had abated slightly, and see what fate these tomes had come to.  Now I say "tomes," in the plural, because it was not just one Britannica, but two!  (The shame!)  One was held in reserve on the top of a wall near the de-mufflered car.

...And I present to you the findings of this once fine, but now water warped specimen, just to our left.  The poor 1994 volume on the Future of Science.  It is a blurry photo.  But I took the photo in the rain and rather quickly.  Partly, too, because how odd is it for you too look out your window and see your neighbor taking photos of warped books in the rain on a Saturday morning at 6AM?  Let's call it eccentric and move on.

Our use of books in society continues to strike me as utilitarian, but in the present case, we may appropriate (perhaps philologically incorrect!) the "utile-" portion, in the form of "utensil."  And certainly these books have take on another, perhaps greater purpose.  Their primary use, at least for the owner of these books, has been superseded by a secondary use, which at this point in the owner's life deals with fixing his muffler, and these books serve that purpose of succor, bibliosuccor ("has a book helped you lately?" should be a motto for some company or drug, like an additive in one of those prescriptives for disfunctions in older men).  But now they are warped...not the men, the books, though that may debatable to my readers.  I'll let you duke it out.  Cry as we may, our books or us, these objects, items, utensils, things, are programmed into our minds with purpose and purposefulness (oh, to have a title that would sell like "A Purpose Driven Book?").  And even as I had one of my first real experiences looking at a colleague's Kindle yesterday (which I'll tell more about later), I can only think of "the book" now.  So, let me ask you: could a Kindle lift your car off the ground?  I think not.


  1. Insightful, funny, and just plain fun to read! I want a hard copy (bound that is) of this blog site. Please consider.

  2. I told Dr. Bangert once that if I had three more copies of Frank Senn's big book o' liturgy, I could put my car up.