A love letter to a book murderer.
So if you’ve been part of book culture online for about 5 seconds you’ll have seen ‘the book murderer’, a man who takes longer books and cuts them in half down the spine to be able to carry them around more easily. At first, like many, I was simply outraged! I mean I love to see a book that’s a little damaged, has obviously been read many times and loved, but chopping them up first is like a violation. But things have changed a little on my opinion and I’ll explain why.
First let’s start with the person himself and a little background on what he has to say. Alex Christofi is a writer and editor, having written two novels. The English Author is originally from Dorset and studies at Oxford University.
The photo popped up online after a colleague saw half a novel on his desk and called him a book murderer. Assuming his colleague was overreacting he posted a photo of these books online and things blew up, people marking him as a book murderer and that it was an awful thing to do. In response to this Christofi wrote a really interesting article for the Guardian. And this is where things get interesting and make me question everything I know.
In the article Christofi explains how He’s a huge book fan but used to feel like he hated reading hardbacks when the truth is he hated having to carry them around. So he came up with the plan to cut it in half and bind them with cardboard, able to carry them in his pocket. He goes on to say he had a Kindle and sometimes listened to audiobooks but his larger books would often go unread and unloved. This is an issue I have myself as I want to read IT by Steven King but I don’t know how I’m going to be able to carry it around. He saw this as the perfect solution.
The idea came from when he was searching for two-volume editions of older classics such as War and Peace before he started cutting up novels by modern authors. As he explained in his article ‘I assumed the authors wouldn’t mind selling a new paperback to someone else, and I really only wanted to get the words into my skull.’
This is the point when I started to question my ways of thinking. I’m all about supporting the print industry and I really want more people reading. Another point he makes is ‘ The codex is just a mortal husk – the soul of a book is the story, and the form of words used to tell it. Authors don’t generally dream of seeing their books cellophaned in mint condition, like Star Wars memorabilia. The biggest compliment you can pay an author is to read their book, let them tell you their story – take it to heart and tell others. So I don’t like to think of myself as a book murderer. More like a gung-ho reader. And if you find one of my (short) books in your possession, you have my permission to chop it in half.’ This is a sentiment I don’t think I could have articulated any better myself, if this is what it takes to get people to read then so be it.
The truth is this is something I may try myself. I really like the idea that it allows you to read a longer book in a more comfortable way and I’ll still be loving this book, just in a different way.
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Photograph: Alex Christofi