I was reclined in my brand new chair in the corner of my bedroom and reading a book I was about halfway through and eager to get back to. As I am laughing out loud reading this collection of essays, I flipped the page and noticed the following page was dog-eared at the top right. For some reason it grabbed my attention enough to get me to stop reading for the moment and get me curious about the previous reader.
I know that I am reading this particular book, a second collection of essays by the author because of how much I enjoyed the first. I learned of the author from a Seattle based podcast called TBTL – she was interviewed by the host and between the interview and Luke Burbank’s (the podcast’s host) banter regarding the books, I had to check them out. I wonder though how the previous reader came to know of Sloane Crosley and her essays and did they read her first book too? Were they laughing as much as I had been before getting to this point in the book and decided to dog-ear the page in case the book fell from their hand while laughing?
I get most, in fact, almost all of the books I read from the library so in almost every instance, there was at least on previous reader and most likely several to many previous readers not just of the same title, but the exact same book that ends up in my hands. Sometimes the creases and folds in a book or the specific wear to the binding tells a story all its own.
I’ve noticed when I take out recipe books from the library, the binding is looser at certain recipes than others. This to me is unscientific validation of a popular recipe and I assume that the loose binding is a result of mass photocopying and more often than not, I follow the lead of those who’ve borrowed the book before me and photocopy the recipe as well. With other books though, narrative based ones, if the dog ears or loose binding represent something random or if, at least in some instances, a similar experience in the flow of the narrative and the need to pause to embrace that experience of digest the author’s words into some meaningful understanding.
Of course, there are times when reading a book that one must stop reading. I stop when I am tired, if I have somewhere to go or some other interruption occurs and often don’t think anything of it because it just seems so normal. But for some reason, I wonder what it was that occurred in the previous reader’s flow that led them to dog-ear the page. I suspect its life as usual as in my cases but I wonder if ever something spectacular happened that led them to stop at that point. Perhaps one of their children needed help with homework or dinner was ready or a movie was about to being or just about anything could have been the cause for the pause. I wonder if the reader themselves was tired and dozed off and someone else was kind enough to retrieve the book and dog-ear the page for them.