Friday, April 19, 2013

Things to do with books--other than read them, that is

On a Friday night at the close of a strange and unpleasant week, I'll turn the mic over to Ford Madox Ford, who, on being asked by an American editor to write a few hundred words on the uses of books, replied, in this letter from September 14, 1929:
Books can be useful from so many points of view. In my early days, for example, I used to use the Encylopedia Britannica as a trouser-press and certainly the house that was without it was to be pitied. Books are also very useful for pulping; bibles and other works set over the heart will deflect bullets; works printed on thin india paper are admirable if you happen to run out of cigarette papers. Their use for that purpose is in fact forbidden in France where there is a tobacco monopoly. In fact, if you are ever without a book you are certain to want one in the end. For the matter of that, my grand aunt Eliza Coffin used to say: "Sooner than be idle, I’d take a book and read." According to her the other uses of books were (1) for the concealing of wills (2) for the ditto of proposals of marriage by letter; (3) for pressing flowers; (4) folios piled one on the other will aid you to reach the top row in the linen cupboard; (5) they have been used as missiles, as bedsteads when levelly piled, as wrappings for comestibles; (6) as soporifics, sudorifics, shaving paper etc.

I was once accused of using slices of bacon, at breakfast, to mark my place in a book. That is untrue.
Glad we got that last bit cleared up.

1 comment:

  1. Don't forget Sant Jordi Day, 23 April. In honor of St. George, lovers exchange a book and a rose with one another. 50 percent of all books sold annually in Catalonia are sold on Sant Jordi Day. The advantage of tying books to romance is obvious, and physical books would make better gifts, helping that medium survive.