Thursday, August 03, 2006

My Name is Maia, and I'm a Book Fondler

A friend of mine, another "emerging" writer - who I'd link to if she had a website - lent me a book last week. After reading the first chapter, I knew I had found another new favourite writer; Ryan Knighton, a deliciously acerbic Vancouverite. The book is Cockeyed, a memoir about being diagnosed and living with retinitis pigmentosa, a disease that eventually causes blindness. (You can check out some of his excellent writing on his website.)

I have experienced a whole boatload of vision loss myself, so much so that even though my lenses are specially treated they're still a sexy Coke-bottle-ish thickness. Moderate myopia (measured in diopters) is between -1 to -3. I am around -8. (Complete lack of vision is in the neighbourhood of -18). I started life with perfect sight and started to lose it at the tender age of 8. It stopped in my early twenties, thankfuly, but every year or so when I was growing up I'd slip a diopter or two deeper into blur. After all that downward sliding, I developed quite a fear of losing my own sight. In one of those ironic twists of fate, I have such spectactular hearing that that I can hear a proverbial pin drop. This is great fun when trying to sleep.

Anyway, that's all kind of apropos of nothing, but is a bit of background on why I find his work so fascinating, although the fact that my vision can be successfully corrected means that there's a whole universe between his experience and mine. I find his descriptions of his adaptive behaviour interesting, though, and I started to think about how I do similar things; not turning on lights if I get up at night, because without my glasses I can't see anything anyway. When staying at hotel rooms, I don't put things on the floor, because I'll trip on them if I have to get up in the middle of the night, (likely because my bionic ears have heard some inconsequential noise and I've woken up).

I haven't borrowed a book from someone in a long time, and as soon as I started to read this particular book, I ran into trouble. The book was in pristine shape, almost as if it has never been opened. My friend is currently on a literarly romp around the Maritimes, so I can't ask her if it's okay to bend back the cover, but since she hasn't done it already, I have to assume the answer is no. Which leads me to wonder; how to people hold books when they don't bend the spine? How do they keep their page if they don't bend back the corners? Bookmarks? Sadly, I'm just not a good bookmark person: I keep losing them. I tend to mark my path through books with turned down top page corners of when I'm trying to keep my spot and turned down bottom page corners when I want to mark a particularly good moment in the book. When I was struggling with plot structure problems in my book, I read 4 or 5 books and marked all the plot transitions with sticky notes. I leave my books face down and open. I read in the bathtub, in waiting rooms, at the pub when waiting for friends, and my books all look like they've been manhandled within an inch of their lives. Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Maia, and I'm a book fondler. A bit of a literary pervert, if you will.

I wouldn't normally be so concerned about putting my grubby paws all over her book, except the damn thing is autographed, and so, is unique. On the bright side, Ryan Knighton will be in Toronto for the International Festival of Authors in October, so I'm going to go see him read and get him to autograph a book for me.

(Or two.)


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