This is something I’ve written yesterday. It’s very weird, not very good, and I can’t decide yet if it’s fiction or non-fiction. It’s an attempt to classify book-types from a slightly different point of view. Something similar to the medieval bestiaries, I guess. The categories are not meant to be exhaustive, nor to exclude one another. I might do a follow-up, if I have any other ideas.
The temporally-uneven book
The book you read before you fall asleep, while sleeping, immediately after waking up. The book that keeps your eyelids shut in that translucent, crepuscular time after you’ve awoken. The book through which you sleep, the book for which the wake-up alarm never rings, the clock never ticks, the pendulum stays still. The book in which you’re stuck, exactly seven pages before the most important scene, and towards which you keep stumbling, keep sliding, as if you were trying to climb a plastic foil.
e.g. “Snow” – Orhan Pamuk
The mountain-peek book
The book that you’ve stopped reading, for the time being. You’re afraid to go on. The book in which you’ve reached a point so ineffably, painfully beautiful that you know, from here onwards, things can only go downhill. The mountain-peek fragment which all the pages you’ve already read have been longing for, yearning, converging, the passage that, you know all too well, cannot be topped. The rest of the book crumbles. And you bite your fingers until you leave little white flowers, you read, you re-read, you re-read, and you try to make sure it spreads uniformly all across your insides, that you’re well lined with it, because now there’s no safe choice: you either go back and downwards, remain suspended halfway along the way (although you know, you know you won’t find anything better in this book), or you plunge ahead, in the abyss, hoping that the view before the crash is at least half as beautiful as the mountain peek.
e.g. “Everything is Illuminated” – Jonathan Safran Foer
The unread book you live with
Unread, of course, is a hyperbole. You’ve won the right to cohabit with this book when you first read it. It was the first, the only and (the instinctual animal inside you knows it) the last time. It’s usually a poetry book, because one never reads poetry twice. It’s the book you carefully place under your pillow before sleeping, and sometimes the recommendation on the back cover imprints on your neck. It’s the book you’d take with you if you ran away from home. It’s the book you escape to, at 3:53 am, your eyes swollen and your make-up dripping on its pages, but you don’t read it, you skim it, scan it, inhale its special scent, pick up an odd verse, from here, from there, only to remind yourself of something that was once fretting inside you. Only to remind yourself of something else, every single time. It’s a book with coffee and wax stains, barely holding together ever since your cat sharpened its claws on it, it’s the book you place on your stomach when you’re cold. It’s the book you throw on the floor while making love, and sometimes write letters on its pages.
e.g. “Leaves of Grass” – Walt Whitman
The book you struggle to read annually
It’s a good book. Not very good, definitely not bad. It’s solid and easy to read (because “annually” leaves you with a very tight schedule to fit it in), and you tell everyone that you’ve been reading it every single year, since 19xx. It’s true, of course, because every year the moment comes when it accidentally falls off your bookshelf or when someone mentions it (why, though, only once a year?); it’s just that, unlike The unread book you live with, you don’t even remember it exists for 11 months. And then you pick it up, patiently blow the dust off its covers, run your fingers along its spine in a beautiful, luminescent ritual, and then you start reading (admittedly, more about yourself yesterday, today, tomorrow, rather than the actual plot). You both enter an active process of loving and forgetting, eleven months, some sort of prolonged gestation of a new identity that will fall off your bookshelf at a definite time in the future.
e.g. “The Year of the Hare” – Arto Paasilinna
The book with carnations
It’s a book with lush carnations on its window sills, carnations of a slitting, saturated red and a suffocating perfume. It’s a book with hard, wooden floorboards, painted white. It’s a book with large windows, embroidered curtains and a roof on which it always rains. It’s a quite type of rain. It’s a book that does not hold much life, but the one it has fills it superbly. A book that splits you open, breaks your legs, smears your cheeks with the ashes of a new kind of love.
e.g. “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” – Milan Kundera