Thursday, February 19, 2009

Carnivorous Books

I was reading the Summer '08 issue of everyone's favorite Middle East culture mag, Bidoun, and lo, I came accross some very unsavory words.

I am not sure what sort of warning I should put here.  I don't want to put such an exciting warning that your curiousity will overcome your good judgement (like mine does all the time).  Innocence is such a strange thing, you only appreciate it when you have lost it.  Perhaps even my innocence is the only thing at stake here, or maybe I am being too cautious.  Maybe you'll read the rest of this entry and laugh at me.  Maybe in my naivate, I wrongly assume everyone else is as squeemish as I am.  If you are squeemish, if you have delicate digestion, if you like to keep your faith in the bookbinders of the ages, if you may be a bit anglo-philic, if you are a vegetarian for ethical reasons, if you like to sleep with a book under your pillow, if you have vaguely fond associations of King James I and books, then please, don't read this.


"anthropodermic bibliophagy"

I didn't know what they meant, so I made the mistake of reading the rest of the article, and they even had a picture (which I won't reproduce here).  Damn curiousity, damn damn!  I know most of my readers are smarter than me, so most of you probably can pick the words apart, or maybe you have even run into them before.  I don't think about words all that much (sometimes I do) and rarely ponder how much I love or hate them, unless I run across some exceptional specimens.  To take another bad example, the word "rape."  I remember the conversation with my mother when she explained what it was and why she didn't want me wandering in the park alone.  I had a similar reaction then-- it was too hideous to wrap my head around it, it was too hard to believe, to imagine that anyone could survive, or why anyone would do it.  Things like that pull my head in too many directions at once.  Since then I have heard it in many contexts (mostly negative) but the familiarity has somehow worn away the prickliness.  

I always thought of books as being benign in their materials (of course, not always in their content), mostly vegetarian, with some sheepskin parchment in very old books (I don't own any old books).  I innocently enjoyed their tactile pleasures and naively thought that all books were somehow ok.  But they are not, just like the people who write them, read them, hoard them and everything else we touch in this beautiful, ugly world.

The nasty details. 
Read the story here.   According to Bidoun, after he was executed, they bound the book of the story of his trial with his own skin.


Anonymous said...

I've skipped to the bottom to put forth my guess that the book was made of human skin? Then eaten by someone/thing else?

Anonymous said...

Ah. The "book was swallowed" (bibliophagy) in a cover of human skin (anthropodermic). Why make up a whole new term for this when the Germans already have Schadenfreude?

H said...

This is all too cerebral for me. I think I'll go back to reading Alfred Alder's ancient books on Social Interest...

Kay said...

I admit it - I'm fairly squeamish. And a little bit of a scaredy cat ... so have opted for wimpishness and not to read it! (I am using a fondness for the King James version as my excuse ...) :)

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