Last night at the witching hour I paused in my librocubicularism (Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling) to give thanks for the time and place in which I live. I had the energy to do this because the book I was holding was made of paper, with cloth-covered cardboard binding. I'd just been reading about the invention of the alphabet and looking at the illustration of the long, involved necklace which Kipling says was made to record all twenty-six letters.
I went from the perusal of the three pages of notes Kipling made to document the illustration to thoughts of how completely inconvenient it would be to store books that were written by means of beads on strings, and how tangled they would become. I wondered if bookshelves would then become book pegs, with long, heavy loops of books hung on the walls. As I always like to have a book with me when I travel, the necklace format could be very convenient.
There’d be drawbacks, of course. What if the book you were reading wasn’t suitable for office wear, or didn’t go with your suit? Would the print on newspaper necklaces come off on your clothes? For parents, there’d also be the perennial problem of teenagers. I imagine an angry mother waiting up for her daughter to come home from a date.
“There you are, young lady! Hand over that third chapter of Pride and Prejudice, right now! I can’t imagine what you were thinking—you know my book club is reading it this month!”
“Mo-om! It’s the only chapter in the house that totally goes with this shirt!”
“Look, you’ve got it all tangled! Now I’ll have to straighten it out before I can find out what Mr. Darcy is doing. Why couldn’t you wear Twilight? You were crazy about it last month.”
“Twilight doesn’t go with this outfit, Mom! Anyway, here’s your old Mr. Darcy back.”
The fact that Kipling’s story is completely fictitious didn’t put a single rock on the tracks of my train of thought. It did lead me to think, though, about how blessedly convenient it is to read a bound book in bed. No long scrolls of papyrus, no heavy clay slabs of cuneiform or runes chiseled into granite, just the soft rustling of the leaves of chopped, mashed, soaked, rolled, sliced and pressed trees. The minor inconvenience of flicking a single page back and forth as I looked at the picture and read the notes paled in comparison to, say, turning over a slab of basalt to see what was on the other side.
Mind you, the basalt books would have their good points, too. My unabridged Roget’s is already heavier than the free weights I use to work out. Imagine the muscles I’d develop if it were chiseled in stone!
It’d give a whole new meaning to the word “bookish.”
Books mentioned in this column:
Elizabeth Creith is a biblioholic and incurable librocubicularist. Not only does she buy, read, shelve and stack books, but she also writes them and on occasion makes them by hand. Elizabeth lives and writes in Wharncliffe, Northern Ontario, distracted occasionally by her husband, dog, and cat. The Scriptorium is where she blogs about writing and life. Contact Elizabeth.