Archive for November, 2008


book soup

In the collective Chicago crimewriter blog The Outfit, PI novelist Sean Chercover has a wonderful post on books and bookbuying and the dizzying vortex of Total Collapse that is facing us:

Books and the Collapse of Civilization: two of my favorite topics.

In the current Harper’s there’s a sidebar excerpting recipes of desperation from Leningrad during the 1941-44 siege,  including a recipe for belt soup that sounds not bad.

A book, now, should be a good basis for soup. After all, people make soup from stones, and cakes from mud. There is much more nutrition in a book, even apart from the mental and spiritual nourishment provided by the words themselves. Animal protein: older books were sometimes bound with horsehair glue, bound in calfskin leather. Strip these covers for vegetarians: the interior of books made since about 1850 is pure tree, with the pesky lignin–the stuff only termites can digest–processed out.

The inks are probably a nasty stew of petroleum byproducts and heavy metals, unfortunately. Only the most recent books will be printed with soy inks. But perhaps they can be skimmed off, like excess fat.

These are hard times coming toward us. People are reportedly  selling off their excess stuff to get cash; apparently the average family has almost $4000 worth of stuff it doesn’t really need.

For me, most of my disposable for years has gone into books (okay, and some arcane musical instruments). I am loath to part with  any of them. Every time I sell or donate a book, I soon discover that it contained info I need, or a story I desperately want to read again. It never fails.

So if it comes to eating them, I hardly know where to begin.

And I may starve to death, because whenever I do something as simple as re-arranging my book accumulation or spreading the wealth into a new bookcase, I always end up sitting on the floor, surrounded by a pile of books, totally absorbed in reading one that I had forgotten about, or needed suddenly to read again, and the re-arrangement goes unmade, the new bookshelf unstocked.

Proposed: That reading a book is better than eating it.

You may want to stock up the larder this holiday season by buying yourself a book–buy several! And buy them for your friends! Because by so doing you will help bookstores  (and writers!) survive what looks increasingly like a very grim winter. And you will be doing your bit to save civilization.  What is more civilized than a book?

After all, you can always eat them later.

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