The Wide Open Spaces


Elizabeth Creith

I'm about to speak heresy—at least, bibliophile heresy. Every book-lover needs a dedicated space of blank wall. No picture, no knick-knacks, no—well, whatever people put on a wall when it isn’t properly covered with bookshelves. Unthinkable, I know.

This piece of wall should be situated directly across from the best reading chair, the one in which you do most of your reading. (Librocubicularists will also need a space in the bedroom, directly opposite the foot of the bed.)

“What?” I hear you shriek, “A whole section of wall, maybe two, deprived of their rightful burden of books? Heretic! Stone her! Beat her to death with the unabridged Oxford!”

Yikes! Before you start tossing the tomes consider Sturgeon’s Law: “Ninety percent of everything is crap”.

That said, chances are that any dedicated reader is, sooner or later, going to stray outside of the ten percent and hit some crap. In my case it was a book called The Labyrinth by an author named Kate Mosse-not-the-model.

Truly, I hesitated about naming the book because we cite books named here at BiblioBuffet, and I don’t want to give this one any publicity. But I feel a moral obligation to warn fellow readers that here—because of my interest in things Arthurian, archaeological and arcane—I landed in the ninety percent.

It was a truly horrible book.

I ploughed through, unable to stop, fascinated by the sheer awfulness of it. Horses flailing and baying. Mediaeval women lying down for a little nap in an abandoned place and not being raped and killed. Anachronisms and inaccuracies gratuitously written in to show us, I guess, how little the author knew her time. And in the middle, as though she’d suddenly just gotten tired of the whole thing, a great whack of one person telling another what had happened, pages and pages of it.

It was a hot dog of a book, by which I mean it was long, thin, full of unhealthy stuff, convincingly marketed and yet completely not worth the calories (or reading time).The contents were probably trimmed from better cuts of book, the literary equivalent of lips and—um, earholes. Yeah, earholes.

And the worst of it, dear readers, the worst of the whole experience, was that I had borrowed this book from my sister and it was not my book. Now, this might seem like a bonus—I hadn’t spent my hard-earned bucks on this stuff. But in fact it meant I had to return the book in approximately the condition I got it in, so I couldn’t drown it, or set fire to it, or rip it up and make origami cranes out of the whole freakin’ thing.

But I did do one thing. I wound up and threw the book across the room. It hit the opposing bookshelves with a satisfactory “thwack”, and eased my feelings considerably.

But it seemed unfair on my own poor books to punish them for simply being there. Next time I do it, I’ll need a space of bare wall.

Or maybe I just need to avoid the ninety percent.

Books mentioned in this column:
Labyrinth by Kate Mosse (Putnam Adult, 2006)
Oxford English Dictionary, James Murray et al, eds. (Oxford University Press, 1991)


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.



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