Tuesday, 11 December 2007

The Word Made Flesh

There is a book on my shelves that I have never read but will never throw out. It is a schoolbook edition of Silas Marner from the early part of the 20th century. I’d already read the story in my own textbook by the time I acquired it, and had no especial fondness for the characters. Nevertheless, I had to have this book. The cloth of its hardback cover is worn to a delightful softness, and the weight of the book is perfectly proportioned to its size. I still sometimes take the book from the shelves just to let it rest in my hand. Then I might open the book and finger the slightly yellowed pages, imagining that all its readers have handled it this tenderly (though knowing what I do of school children, I doubt this to be the case). Silas Marner was the first book I loved purely for its physicality.

With this in mind I read of the projected success of ebook readers like Kindle and iLiad, and I can only give a noncommittal shrug. As a fairly frequent traveller (who can never remember to redeem her miles), I can imagine the advantages of packing a whole library in the space of just one book. What I can’t imagine is reading The Hobbit via anything other than my 1960s edition with Tolkien smoking a pipe on the back and a thumb-sized tear on the front cover, exactly where my thumb goes when I open the book.

Isn’t a book an incarnated idea—‘the word made flesh to dwell among us’? And shouldn’t that flesh be clothed appropriately? No tawdry covers for my favourite books, please. Make them like my copy of The Grass is Singing, its white cover interrupted with a few spikey blades of grass, looking ever so grassy, I could swear they really were singing. Let the pages be grainy and inviting and not too white, and most of all let the text be worthy of its trappings.

For all my friends this Christmas, and for you, I wish good stories, wrapped in suitable covers, that feel just right in your hands.
- Jessica, Editor

1 comment:

Liz said...

Death to e-books!