I can’t walk by a puppy without petting it; I can’t pass a plate of cookies without taking one, and there’s no way in the world I could possibly scroll by a post called Love Drunk Book Heads: What’s Your Most Revelatory Book Experience (minus the question mark at the end, making it more of an invitation to discourse than an icebreaker).
The question comes from Jeff VanderMeer of Ecstatic Days, and springs from a survey he took in 2003, back when his Fantastic Metropolis was a website, not a blog. He asked some 80-odd authors five questions about the ways they relate to books as physical objects, and collected their responses — and now he’s appended one more, inviting comments from readers.
It’s interesting what’s changed over the past six years — the answers can stay the same, but our relationship to the questions has acquired such a different weight. Not just the element of anticipated nostalgia — because everyone’s connection to books is about to shift, like it or not — but, at least for me, it’s tinged with a little extra appreciation because of that. It’s a purely pleasant thing to meditate on, at any rate. And while I’m not really big on memes, if a bookish blogger needed a Get Out of Jail Free Card for a day’s post, you could do worse than considering VanderMeer’s questions, as follows:
1. What do you like about the book as physical object?
2. Do you have any rituals or procedures you go through after acquiring a new (or used) book? (Some writers indicate they bite or smell books.)
3. Is it necessary for books to exist as physical objects in our increasingly electronic world? If so, why?
4. What recent examples stand out for you as exemplar of well-designed, well-made books?
5. Do you have any memory connected to books that you would like to share?
And this last one:
6. Can you describe one or two of your most unusual, strange, or revelatory book experiences, either in the finding/buying of a book or the reading of it?
(And then send your answers to Jeff, since he asked).