“I don’t have pet peeves, I have major, psychotic hatreds.”
– George Carlin
I had expected to be writing Part 2 of ‘The Myth of The Children’s Book’ for this post, but I had a little experience on the weekend that got me thinking about something else.
It was my birthday recently, and those who know me best gave me money for books, books themselves or book vouchers. Armed with the money and the vouchers, I traipsed into one well-known bookstore (that-which-cannot-be-named) and proceeded to the science fiction/fantasy section, as I had a particular book in mind – Heart’s Blood, by Juliet Marillier.
I like to think Australia has pretty much adopted Marillier, even though she was born in the picturesque Dunedin, New Zealand. I don’t know myself whether she refers to herself as a New Zealander, or an Australian, or perhaps a hybrid of the two nationalities. Either way, growing up in such a landscape appears to have a profound effect on one’s imagination, and the books of hers I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing so far (well, singular book: Cybele’s Secret) have such a wonderful ‘otherworldliness’ to them. Suffice to say I was looking forward to holding the much-anticipated novel in my grubby paws, and losing myself to adventure!
Except…it wasn’t on the shelf with all the other Marillier books.
My heart skipped a beat.
“Don’t panic yet”, I told myself, and quickly made my way to the nearest computer help. The title search yielded: “One copy, in store, Sci Fi/ Fantasy”. At this point an assistant happened to pipe up behind me and offer to help in the treasure hunt. We retraced my steps back to the shelf and scanned again. No luck.
“Sooorrry,” said the assistant (I felt he clearly was NOT sorry), and he finished with a smirk, “It obviously hasn’t been bought yet. Maybe it’s in [insert name of ubiquitous coffee shop that accompanies bookstore]”. And off he went.
Call it my inner capitalist, but I get this irritated little itch when I see a person ‘browsing’ through a book for a moment too long and then leaving the store without the book packaged and paid for. It’s the same feeling I get when I view a person flipping through a magazine at the checkout, only to put it back in the stand once their groceries start filing through. So you can imagine my distaste at this answer. No, not distaste – more like this intense fireball of rage that begins in the pit of my stomach and threatens to consume me and ALL IN ITS PATH – Dr Jekyll’s Mr Hyde ain’t got nothin’ on me.
My rage-addled brain was suddenly filled with visions of coffee slopped over pages 49-75, lovesick crumbs of friand cuddling together in the spine, forgotten flakes of filo pastry obscuring the author’s afterword. And worst of all, after the reader had finished his/her little dalliance, the book would lay on its back in the chair, discarded like an old rag.
My senses aligned with superhuman sensitivity, I sniffed my way to the coffee shop area. There he was: Edward Cullen-esque hair, a brooding temperament a la Heathcliff, poised over the coveted Heart’s Blood, lost in thought, pausing only to scribble furiously on the paper next to him. And there was coffee on the table. And a half-eaten sandwich! I was chomping at the bit by this time, ready to pounce. But then, all of a sudden, he stopped scribbling. Got out of his chair, brushed the invisible crumbs off his pant leg, and carried Heart’s Blood to the counter with all the gentle fondness and excitement of a green bridesgroom carrying his new bride across the threshold.
I breathed a sigh of relief. Oh readers, what a prince he was! It dawned on me that I didn’t care if there were sandwich crumbs inside the cover, and I didn’t care if he had ripped the pages with wild abandon to see what was going to happen next. All I cared about, was the fact that the book had found a home, and wasn’t abandoned. Unloved.
I was enlightened! I wasn’t some tyrranical book beast with a capitalist soul, I was a do-gooder for printed media!! It was a great day. We both went our separate ways – the prince and I – happy with our newly acquired purchases (I managed to find other books that interested me, once I had calmed down) and I was safe in the knowledge that somewhere out there, a Marillier book was being cherished.
So what have I learned from this little experience? That my irritation has limitations? Probably. That I can get help for my problem? Probably not. That I’m the Mother Theresa of the bookworld? Definitely.
Perhaps most importantly, I learned that I should have quashed my impatience and simply bought it online from the Boomerang Books website *exaggerated wink*.
Despite the fact that I am now revered in my own mind as a book goddess, there must be plenty more of you out there who feel guilty over your petty pet peeves. Well, no more, my friends! Revel in your pettiness. And know that sometimes, no matter how irrational the irritation, certain ‘unsavoury’ book attitudes can irk even the most patient of booklovers.
So, what book no-nos bring out your Mr Hyde?