But before I get to it here, I need to post a little moment that surprised even me, when you take into account my love for books.
I once asked a student teacher to go photocopy some pages from a new translation of The Odyssey. It was during my AP Lit and Comp class. She said, “How do I do that without pressing it flat and breaking the binding?”
Okay, for full disclosure here, she was perhaps the most difficult student teacher I had over twelve years. She really wasn’t cut out to teach and the kids terrified her, so I was a little raw with our coddling interactions. But I also took the moment to teach a lesson…I think.
I took the book and slammed the binding three or four times against my desk until the spine split perpendicularly—remember this is The Odyssey, so the thing is huge. She, naturally, jumped back in terrified horror. I had also gotten my students’ attention. I then turned to the first leaf that I wanted copied. I put the spine along the desk and bent it over until it popped. Then I pressed the crease between each leaf that I wanted photocopied, closed it back up and held it out to her trembling hand.
“It’s not a Fabergé egg,” I said. “The cover means nothing. The spine, the pages. It’s only the words that count, and even those mean nothing unless you read them and think about them. If I could understand books from eating every page with hot sauce I would do it.”
Then I turned to the class. “Sometimes we have to destroy part or all of something to truly understand it. We have to, in effect, deconstruct it.”
They were all pretty wide-eyed. I turned back to the student teacher. She looked as though she were holding her dead long-beloved cat. She looked up at me.
I said, nonchalantly, “Do you need the copy code?”
She shook her head.
“Cool,” I said.” Thirty two copies, please.” I turned back and began my class lecture.
Thank god nobody did such a reckless thing to the Folios or the Lindisfarne, or the Voynich.
I still don’t know if it was a good impression or a bad impression. It seemed a bit self-indulgent and dramatic. But it got my point across to her. She was gone within a week.