I bought a used book a month or so ago on Amazon. It’s called News from the Border, and is a captivating memoir about a mother and her autistic son, written by Jane Taylor McDonnell. I had read her book on writing memoir, Living to tell the Tale, in which she used excerpts of her memoir to illustrate various tips about technique, and I enjoyed it enough to buy the book. As I mentioned, I bought the book used – why not save a few dollars, right? When I opened the book, the first thing I saw was a red stamp that said, “DISCARD,” with the name of the library it once belonged to. I immediately felt a little sad. Even though I had yet to read the book, there was something about the finality of that red stamp, the callous rejection it implied, that bothered me. I don’t think I’ve ever run across a book that was so clearly marked for the dump or some other such final resting place for garbage. It evoked an image of a stuffy librarian wearing a flowery shirt and a light cardigan sweater, glasses hanging on a sparkly chain around her neck, sitting in front of a stack of books that hadn’t been checked out often enough to warrant the space they consumed on a shelf somewhere. She opens each book, firmly pressing down on the plastic stamp that marks her prey as rejects as she moves each text to a new pile of “discards.”
Let me say, I’m not one of those people that is so enthralled with books that I treat each one as though it was as sacred as the Old Testament to an Orthodox Christian. I like books – very much, even. But I’m not generally that sentimental about them. In fact, I’m one of those people that likes to get rid of things, books included. When I get rid of books, I either sell them back to Amazon or drop them off at a recycling center that has a book section where others can come and pick through the books and take them for themselves for free. So, I guess I never thought that there is actually a cycle of life a physical book might have, with a sort of death at the very end. Obviously, despite being stamped “DISCARD,” this book has yet to meet its final end, so perhaps I’m being overly dramatic. Nonetheless, I just didn’t like that angry red stamp.
P.S. To my friends that have a library science background, I apologize for the blatant stereotyping. I am sure that none of you will ever be a stuffy librarian that wears flowery shirts, cardigan sweaters and glasses on a shiny chain around your neck.
I don’t like the stamp either. It’s so final. So sad. Like someone just decided one day that it didn’t belong and threw it into the pile marked for misfit island.
At least you found the book and, for awhile, can give it a new home and some love. I have a hard time parting with books. They become like old friends and I enjoy their company.
Thanks for stopping by, Tameri. For me, some books are easier than others to part with, and I was surprised that it bothered me so much to see that stamp. I didn’t spend any time in my post to say what a good read this book is, but it is one worth reading, especially for anyone that wants to understand the challenges of being a parent to an autistic child, or being that autistic child.
I understand what you mean. Definitely wouldn’t want to think of anything I’ve written as discarded. Sad, when you think about all the work the author put into it.
Coming through on the Pay it Forward blogfest.
Have a good weekend.
Thanks for visiting and for the comments! It does seem like one of those realities we just never think about, though. Everything has an end, we just don’t always associate that end with everything we interact with. Good luck with your writing! From your blog, it sounds as though it’s going very well. Congrats!
I like this post very much. Great observation and reflection. Thank you.
Oh…. I soooo understand your feelings in this matter! I can’t discard a book so to speak either. Even a lousy book! Somehow it seems disrespectful to the author. If I ever find my book Trail of Trials with a discard stamp on it – I would be totally devastated. 😦