A paper book is not immortal. Some have lasted through the ages, and now historians and scholars visit them in climate-controlled vaults, handling them with reverence and cotton gloves. But in the twentieth century, books came into their own, as cheaply printed and widely distributed as possible. You could pick up a candy bar and a paperback in the servicestation while you gassed up your car. Pulp paperbacks were not made to last, and so it’s not surprising that they don’t.
What happens to your books when they fall apart? What about the books that were printed by the tens of thousands, only to languish on dusty thrift shop shelves when the fad passed? I have a few books in my collection that are in sad condition, no longer readable either because they will fall apart when I try, or because they are already missing so many pages the story is fractured into an unsolvable mystery.
When I worked in a library, disposing of books was a huge problem. It wasn’t just the books we weeded out of the collection because they hadn’t been checked out in a decade or more. It was the donations kind-hearted folks brought us, boxes and boxes. We sold what we could of those in the perennial Book Sale, and the yearly special sale that spilled out onto tables in the yard with pricing for how many books you could put in paper grocery stacks. But the books stacked up, the fire chief made grumpy noises about blocked access, and we had to do something. My boss refused to send them to the town dump, so in the end he found a wholesaler that paid for the books by the pound, and for a few days the library staff area was waist-deep in boxes of books heading off to some unknown fate. Possibly to be recycled into something like those paper grocery bags.
For me, as I was looking at the pulp paperbacks I’d picked up and lamenting their passing, I saw a photo a fellow ‘mailler posted of scales with comic books pasted on them, and a lightbulb went off in my head. (the First Reader may have flinched a little). I could take the old book and make it into art. Giving it a life other than simply becoming biodegradable trash. A new life as honored jewelry or ornaments. Is this what book heaven looks like?
If you’d like a book dragon of your very own, to wear, or use as an ornament, or as a bookmark, or however your fancy takes you, I am taking orders until Dec 13 for Christmas (and possibly a rush after that, but we’d have to talk). I do sell them year round in the shop, along with a myriad of other dragons! The selection is always growing and changing, and I am totally open to custom work.
If you came to the blog looking for writing stuff, I gave a pep talk for writers on managing time, success, and plotting over at the Mad Genius Club today.
2 thoughts on “The Book Afterlife”
This sounds like a great idea! I can see other possibilities, too – perhaps cover a picture frame, and in the frame have an illustration from the book, or the cover of the book?
Oh, nicely done! And I’m betting you’ll leave people wondering where those passages came from… A puzzle, wrapped in a enigma, as it were… 😀
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