Reading Books with Cracked Spines

– On the bus, the #9 from Commercial to Fraser along Broadway. The kid next to me had folded his paperback around, the spine was bent back on itself and he just turned the book over to turn the page. I couldn’t tell what the books was; something about theatre, maybe a memoir of an actor or director.

And this was the intention of the ‘pocket book,’ a book for your pocket, a one-time-read. I remember reading once of a couple who would read a book together. Whomever started the book would tear off every 50 pages for the other to read, and so on, until a 300pg novel was torn into six sequential packets. A re-serialised novel. Single use.

– The spine of my copy of The Robber Bride was stiff and brittle and it was very hard to read. I had to keep checking: it’s bent far enough for me to read, it’s not far enough to crack. Past the midway point I could relax a little, it wouldn’t get any worse, at least. And the medium v. the message: that stiff spine affected how I read The Robber Bride and so affected what the book is to me now.

– My father borrowed my copy of Rudy Wiebe, Peace Shall Destroy Many, and lent it to his brother, my uncle. And one or the other of them broke the spine! In multiple places! So badly that the signatures are detached along the bottom! I didn’t understand, I asked him, “how did you do this?” and he didn’t understand; “that’s how you read a book,” he said.

He has a point. From another website about books, this comment: I actually really enjoy spine-breaking – it’s like the moment you break the seal on a new jar of coffee – ownership and anticipation combined. I only ever have coffee from a jar when I am camping, and I haven’t been camping since summer 2009, but I understand that. Ownership and anticipation. A process of incorporation.

– I have books with badly broken spines and they are hard to read. I am too conscious of making sure the book does not fall apart and I monitor my progress around the breaks.

I have only ever seen one copy of 1200 days: The NDP in Power, 1972-1975, I bought it used from Granville Book Company in 2002, I believe, before a rock show at the Commodore and I would hate to break it in two. I want to read it again, now, but I want to have it rebound.

– I face this when I find a book I’ve been looking for. The book is there, the spine is cracked; do I buy the book, or do I wait for another copy?

– This is a question of fetishisation but also of form v. function, medium v. message. How the physical directs the ephemeral and how, again, the book I read is not the book anyone else may read. Reader response criticism.

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