Talking about books – 书的闲话 – English

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Generally book-lovers have a great fondness for book collections, and many become book hoarders. Of course some people only use books to display with their furniture, but these should not be treated as real books, only as ornaments. Real book-lovers will buy books to read them, which means that these books can tell you something about the person who owns them.

I don’t remember who it was who said something like: “money only becomes yours when you spend it,” but I think the same applies to books. Without reading, how will you know what a book is really about, how will you be able to distinguish the good parts from the bad? Letting a book stand idle or treating it a book as an ornament, letting it collect dust, this is the worst tragedy a book can undergo.

Some things age with use, but books are not one of those things. No matter what kind of twists and turns of fantasy a book undergoes, it’s core will always remain the same. It does not matter how many people read a book, or touch a book, its age only shows on the cover, while the words on the inside remain new on every reading.

There are some people who like writing their name on a book’s title page, leaving their own stamp on that book. There are some people who, whether they read silently to themselves or out loud to the world, mark out their favourite passages on a whim, or nod and leave wavy lines. When these treasured books are lost to strangers, it is like the sacred heart being dropped into the dust, or a goddess meeting a beggar. The one who has lost the book is chagrined, the one who has gained the book is secretly happy, and it is difficult to stop thinking about them.

While books are the bearers of culture in this material world, they can also become commodities. Even though they are are a special kind of commodity, many people regard them as unimportant. When strolling around large bookshops, I often see people holding shopping baskets, and throwing their chosen books into their baskets like a housewife buying groceries on the street. This sight makes me feel inexplicably disappointed. I don’t know if this is because I feel my own poverty, or because I am sad on the behalf of the books.

But this is not the saddest things. It’s happened a few times that, next to the temple on Zhangye Street, I have seen unworthy descendants selling family books, selling the books accumulated with pain by their fathers and ancestors to the second-hand bookstores for two or three yuan a kilo. Then I felt resentment and anger.

Some people, when they move house, entirely clear out the old books gathered by the older generation, and replace them with modern furniture and ‘modern antiques. This is the same engineering performance as that of some local governments who destroy authentic heritage and replace it with a copy.

I heard that there is a new kind of books now, with luxury covers on the outside, but the inside is just plastic foam. They look impressive on the bookshelves, but if you accidentally pick one up to read it, then it will reveal its true nature. It’s really a case of the clothes making the man!

In my former workplace, one of the managers bought a new house, and the house had to be well furnished. In his own words, the door was solid wood, the heater and kitchen top German brands, only the books were fake.

These books are like low-grade furniture, at first glance, they seem fresh and new, but before you even use them, before you first open them, the frame already falls apart, and all the flaws appear. I think, somebody who really loves books would never want to read one that is full of errors and typos.

If people are obsessed with book, this may in turn lead to a kind of obsession with freshness – the elegant layout and binding of the cover is the first impression that a book leaves on people. If a book cover is too garish and vulgar, it probably means there is nothing worth reading inside. Good books need covers that are worthy of them. In the 1980s, Sanlian editors published a great number of good books. These covers – popular still today – were all from the very hand of the Sanlian General Manager, Li Fanyong – and this should be a cause of shame for those managers today who can only play official, but don’t know anything about the art of binding.

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Source : my1510

About julien.leyre

French-Australian writer, educator, sinophile. Any question? Contact [email protected]