I’ve never told anyone this—okay, maybe one person but he’s in China so that doesn’t count—and I’m kind of embarrassed to admit it. It’s an obsession, really, something that I’ve kept remarkably hidden, or on the down low for years. You would never know it by looking at me.
Whether it’s hard or soft, I don’t care. Girth makes no difference. When I see the object of my fascination—my addiction, really—my heart pounds, nostrils flare, skin tingles, eyes grow wide and mind races with thoughts too wild to contain. I become possessed.
Some might call it a fetish. But it’s probably the single biggest reason why I started working at Border’s Books & Music in Kahului. And still do, on occasion.
I have a thing about books. Oh, it’s beyond mere bibliophilia. Sure, reading them is great and all. But I get the biggest rush simply looking up at a 15-foot wall stuffed with ‘em—row after row of spines, generally eight to 10 inches in height but varying in density, color and style.
I love to pull down a random book off the shelf and investigate the binding or the way the grooves between the front and backboards slope gently or dramatically, depending on how often the book’s been opened. I love to flip the pages, seeing if the print is too large (inferring simplicity) or too small (tending towards pretentiousness). And if I determine the book is very new and unopened, I’ll smell the pages and just barely open the flyleaf to hear the crackle of glue and paper at the hinges.
And I admit, I do judge a book by its cover. I know sometimes the picture or graphic choice says more about the author’s character than the book’s content. Which is not to say I don’t appreciate the merit of romance novel covers, or the chakra and rainbow-heavy covers of metaphysical books.
I once hesitated to buy a travel narrative from one of my favorite writers because the cover—the cover, not the back—depicted the author in a horrifically cheesy, “look at me, I’m going somewhere” pose in full makeup, designer suit and top hat. It looked like it should have been an aging Broadway star autobiography.
When I first started working at Borders five years ago, I gobbled up advance copies and read everything I could get my hands on. Nowadays it seems I just don’t have the time for that kind of commitment. But I do perform an elaborate—and highly attention-deficit—ritual every time I go in.
Of course, I read the back sleeve and jacket flap for story synopsis and to see the infinite ways critics can say the book is readable. The bestsellers and Oprah picks always say “A masterpiece!” on the back, which to me spells boring epic—soon to be made some dumb movie starring Brad Pitt or Renee Zellweger. My favorite part is the Contents page and I always, always read the first paragraph of every book I pick up.
During a typical five-hour shift, I perform this biblio-ritual approximately 72 times, depending on which section they have me “working” in. If I am working, you can generally spot me maniacally alphabetizing in Psychology or with my face buried in the Medieval/Renaissance Studies corner, occasionally running over to Literature, but always taking time to scowl at the amateurs perusing cheap, mass-market copies of Tom Clancy or Danielle Steel in the more pedestrian genre sections.
Actually, I try not to assess people’s reading habits too closely—if they ask me for the latest David Icke book about alien lizards guiding us from outer space, I won’t balk. I’m just happy they’re reading. And if I catch them taking a deep whiff of page 62, I will be more than happy to give the lovebirds a little privacy.
Samantha Campos worked briefly as the lead stand-in for Heather Locklear’s stunt double on T.J. Hooker, but was booted when she got caught scarfing Adrian Zmed’s tuna sandwich from Craft Services. MTW