Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Sherlock Holmes and the Serial Book Murderer

A cute little item came along the Twit-feed yesterday about someone cutting a copy of Infinite Jest in half for portability and being called "a book murderer" by a friend. And it made me laugh, not just because I think Infinite Jest should be sold in pieces, for those of us that bailed on it under a hundred pages in, but also because "You call that guy a book murderer? Pish posh!"

Because if you love books, and I mean really love books, you've probably had to put a few down over the course of your life. I've walked one outside and spiked it into the garbage in a moment of passion. I've tossed dozens of books out a two story window into a dumpster. I've burned books. And I've lovingly dissected a book to look at its component parts, then used parts from different books to assemble a Frankenstein's monster of a book. If books had their own FBI's most wanted list, I . . . well, honestly, I don't think I'd even be on it.

For the truth of it is, as much as we donate books to library, museum, or church book sales to ease our consciences, not all those books sell and the next rung on the book chain doesn't always want all that either. Books get water damaged. School textbooks live horrible lives and become the most unwanted thing of all. And while one can live in an ivory, bookshelf-lined tower, at some point, somebody has to take out the trash, especially if you're in the book business, even temporarily.

And also, burning a book can be therapeutic, even if it's the only copy in existence. Add that to my list of crimes, though suspend the sentence as it was my own novel.

But even the biggest book serial killers among us have their weak spots. This year I'm flying down to 221B Con, which means a couple of banker's boxes of books that I've set aside this year won't wind up on a giveaway table until next year. Sherlock Holmes and Conan Doyle get spared an uncertain fate in a local book sale time after time, as I've seen what happens to those books, and I'm not a complete psychopath. Have I ever sacrificed a Sherlock Holmes book on purpose in the dark of night? Well, I won't say . . . something, mumble, mumble, mumble. Every religion has its holy book, and Sherlockiana comes damned close to being a religion for some of us.

Yet even if you spare Sherlock, I recommend taking out at least one of the paper bastards that dominate our lives, just to show them who's boss. And can't you think of at least one that deserves killin'? If you can't, you probably don't read enough, or have limited yourself to that one sacred topic. Or just spend your time reading internet fic, the one place you can place a novel and know it will never be burned . . . maybe just evaporate one day as the tech fails.

Sherlock Holmes is in no danger of disappearing from our culture anytime soon, so I'm sure he's not worried about the book murderers out there any more than he was worried by Moriarty, Moran, or any of the fifty others who wanted him dead. And I would wager Sherlock murdered more than one book himself during his career . . . hmmm. We're going to have to think about which one that might have been now, aren't we? (Not the royal "we," I'm including you.)

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