Other people’s things

November 23, 2006

 The first thing I do when I buy a new book is to mar it in some way. I bend the cover, crease the spine, something to remove it from a pristine state. There is this ritual unleavening of perfection to the act; a sort of wilful agency in my own decline that eases me. I know I’m careless with my things, so until they’ve reached a baseline level of shabbiness I can’t bring myself to just relax and enjoy them.   I won’t argue there is a undercurrent of defeatism, but it does allow me to somewhat negotiate the terms of surrender.

   Gradually, this pursuit of poetic depreciation bled into other areas of my life. Perfection (realistically speaking anything this side of quite nice) became an obstacle on the path to comfortable squalor. The more I inherently valued something, the stronger the need for strategic disengagement. It lends a certain bohemian charm to career and material objectives; a degree of brevity and chaos to my romantic entanglements. It’s these romantic entanglements where behaviour gets a little morally suspect.

 The more intense, loving, and valuable the relationship is; the more prone to aloof, moody, erraticism I become. Marring the book, as it were. Not particularly admirable, yet the sort of behaviour that we are essentially hardwired to respond to with passionate engagement. I’m not sure if it’s random irony, or some personal fetish for paradox, but my innate reaction to create a stable relaxed environment, is the single most effective way to ignite a dysfunctional combustible relationship. And this used to be fun; sort of. I had taken so many baby steps into sociopathy I saw other people as more experiential props, than beings with independent value.    

So have I changed? Somewhat. Partly through general maturation, partly through a few hard lessons learned at the expense of a very wonderful person. I at least consider the collateral damage of my dysfunctional choices now. The reflexive urge to bring things down to my level is still there, but I like to think my level has risen enough that it’s not so great a drop. The biggest change though is I now only bend my own books; for all my faults, I’ve learned to take care of other peoples things.


7 Responses to “Other people’s things”

  1. w()rmwood Says:

    the truly interesting question is whether one is inclined to break the spine of a new book because they dislike or are uncomfortable with the book in its prestine form …

    .. or whether it is that one is terrified of the possibility of the pristine form being lost, and by destroying it oneself, one is able to exert control over an area otherwise not entirely controllable.

    speaking as somewhat of a book nerd, who has mourned his share of pristine books, I think it is often the latter.

  2. “the truly interesting question is whether one is inclined to break the spine of a new book because they dislike or are uncomfortable with the book in its prestine form …”

    I think we are more uncomfortable with our unpristine form.

  3. w()rmwood Says:



    I think that people are often more comfortable with things in ruins or broken, because it means there is no longer the risk of a good thing becoming broken.

    I think alot of people deeply fear the inability to permanently protect the pristine. This can make one feel vulnerable and weak because one can neither ensure the prestine status, nor can one prevent the pain of having that status ruined.

    anyways … very interesting and insightful post.

  4. baredfeetandteeth Says:

    It intrigues me that you haven’t addressed the idea of ownership. Something in its perfect, store-fresh state will never feel like it belongs to you. Once you’ve bent the cover (or scrawled your name inside the cover, as I posessively do with all of my books)you’ve made your own mark on it.

    Whether you keep the book or pawn it off, wherever it ends up it will retain an impression of the impact you’ve had.

    Of course, applying this theory to personal relationships could take a seriously dark turn.

  5. There is a measure of that, in both the book and broader implication. Though I find it’s the more casual wear, wrought through enjoyment, that somewhat imprints my identity upon it (and vice versa). Any forced claim, both with books and people, asserts a connection that has little to do with either, and ultimately serves to highlight the separation between.

    I do however like leaving notes in the margins.

  6. bodicea Says:

    Perhaps we’re just more comfortable with something imperfect. We tend to find it hard to be ourselves around something perfect.

    because we’ll never be as perfect.

    I also agree with baredfeetandteeth

  7. bass invader Says:

    Maybe its imposing the human “tarnish” of your bohemianism on the clinical precision of corporatism. The things we buy these days were all made by machines – there no sense of contact with any kind of craftsman, there’s next to no individuality in the things available these days.

    As for the broader implication, it may be some concerted subconscious effort to get through the pretty-great-but-somewhat-meaningless first stages of a relationship, to the point where you learn about the other person, warts and all, to see if there’s anything there. It could be your aloofness is actually driven by a deep wanting to know another person…? I dunno.

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