A book, a craft-knife; what could possibly go wrong?

A book, a craft-knife; what could possibly go wrong?

I think I’m gonna get some flak for this…

Let me start by telling you about my neck. I’ve had problems with my back my entire adult life. Four years of osteopathy eventually sorted out my lower back – and then my neck and shoulders began to seize up. Over the past decade my neck has almost ground to a halt (grind being very much the operative word!). I can move it maybe an inch to either side. I can’t tip my head back without using my hands to help. Tipping it forwards is minimal and uncomfortable.

I try not to let this impinge on daily life. Until a year or so ago I played netball every week. I hike as often as I can and carry my own rucksack. It’s the little daily things that seem the most problematic. My neck and shouldesr seize up from:

  • carrying a handbag ‘wrong’
  • wearing a heavy coat
  • or a heavy necklace
  • having my neck uncovered in any but the most tropical climate
  • sitting at an angle to anything I’m trying to do (watch TV, use a computer, talk to people)

I have learned to manage it pretty well. The one thing that still troubles me is reading heavy books. The gift of a kindle helped enormously with this problem, but I don’t read all my books on my kindle. I recently read Brandon Sanderson’s first Mistborn book, The Final Empire. I enjoyed it immensely and set it aside to lend to my sister. When I came to buy the next in the series, The Well of Ascension, I ummed and ahhed over whether to buy the paperback or ebook. In the end I plumped for the paperback, so that I could also lend this to my sister.

I should have checked the page count first. It arrived yesterday, and I settled down to read it. All 800 pages of it. After two hours my neck was stiff from staring downwards. It’s too heavy to hold in the air, and it weighs down the cushions I try to prop it on. Maybe I could pile further cushions on my lap to support it? But it’s kind of annoying when the cat is meowing to come in and out of the room every few minutes and I have to keep getting up, and then rearranging myself back in the chair (yes alright, that’s the cat being annoying, not the book or the cushions).

I seriously considered buying it again for kindle. But I decided to try something else; something I’ve threatened before for other books, but never yet got around to.

Reader, I cut my book in half.

It is done.

It is done.

I make no apologies. I have stated before that I’m not precious about books. They are tools to facilitate the enjoyment of literature. They are vessels. They are not sacred objects in themselves. And if they are obstructing the enjoyment of literature – well, then they need modifying.

I know some people will be appalled by this book mutilation. It was a bold step, even for me. Maybe some of the morally indignant are asking, Where do I draw the line? Would I ever burn a book?

No, of course not! Well, you know, unless I happened to have 500 copies of Katie Price’s autobiography hanging around, and no light by which to read my latest Joe Abercrombie…

The great irony here is that the most book-worshiping person I know is the same sister I was intending to lend the books to. Far from appreciating the troubles I have gone to on her behalf, I fully expect horror and vilification to come my way. She will disdain to even touch my two part Well of Ascension :-S

Anathem by Neal Stephenson and Empires of the Word by Nicholas Ostler: more books that may face the chop

Anathem by Neal Stephenson and Empires of the Word by Nicholas Ostler: more books that may face the chop

But I am much happier with the two slimmer half books, and will have far greater enjoyment from reading them (and fortunately, the end pages do not appear to be coming loose).

I may do this for more of my heavy paperbacks (yes, Anathem, I’m looking at you. And you, Empires of the Word!)

  1. elwoodcock says:

    Well of Ascension, page 172,

    “It was the first real book she had ever owned, though it was just a collection of pages bound loosely at one side. That suited her just fine; the simple binding had made the book that much easier to pull apart.”

    Yes, I am vindicated (no pun intended). Vin, the heroine of Mistborn has just pulled her book apart for ease of reading!

  2. Ian Dack says:

    Stay away from the Stephen King shelves.

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