Ah. The end of the book. Nothing left but the publisher’s slip, affording you the opportunity to order more titles from the same author. I’ve always felt this to be a bizarre custom. At once genteel and barbaric. Obtaining a novel by inking a form and posting it? Surely this harks back to a more genteel era but then this is followed by wrenching the page out from the spine! And so reminding us that the era wasn’t awfully genteel after all. A strange procedure to summon a bibliophile to. What bibliophile worth their binding would have the gall to maul a book that they had just finished and enjoyed enough to want to immediately order more?
Perhaps the frenzied passions stirred by finishing a novel and running headfirst into the next could be overcome somewhat. It could be done surgically perhaps, with a craft knife to remove the page as delicately as possible leaving only a thin literary stigmata where the book has sacrificed of itself for another. This traumatic event could be conducted with dignity, leaving the book scarred but still standing.
What shocked me about the most recent such slip I saw, that leads to reams of lunacy, to the sacking of the very temple, was that this form was on the back of the final page of the novel!
Now to me the last page of a novel is almost sacred. I will often reread the last page and last few lines several times as I gently try to reverently revive myself. The abhorrent practice of reading the final page of a novel FIRST before deciding whether or not to read it traumatises me enough. Before you slap me in the face for uttering such heretical words, people, supposedly of sound mind, actually do this on a regular basis.
Me, who treats the final page with such respect, I do not want to enter its holy of holies until the anointed time can hardly be expected to blaspheme in such a way.
I love starting a book, I love reading a book but I LOVE finishing a book. The bittersweet moment where I am suspended between two different levels of consciousness. Once after finishing an involving book, the third of a trilogy, I sat unable to move or do anything else for at least twenty minutes. I could not even think clearly. I reeled.
The feeling of momentum, the final letting go.
RIP not rip.
But this publisher wishes me to rip out the last page of this beloved novel! In case you think me a prude, I will have you know I have used old second hand books for craft purposes, approaching them with scissors and hole punches. My beatufiul wife’s beautiful bouquet at her wedding was made entirely of old book pages. These books had lived long and adventurous and happy lives, some falling already to pieces and were being re-purposed and re-imagined as a whole. Respectfully taking a whole book and re-constructing it in new form, is giving it a new lease of life. Imagine an old temple, lovingly restored and opened to the public. A new experience is created, different from the original, but respectful and affords us new perspective and understanding and advances the great human conversation. To rip out the last page is just vandalism.
Or to think of another image, a book in this way is like taking the yak and getting meat, milk, and a natty jumper. To denude a novel I have just finished only of its final page before casting it aside is unnecessarily violent and barbaric, like shearing off the elephant’s ivory tusks – pointless and sad.
What would I do with the book after mauling it? To demurely give that book to a friend or a charity shop would be a profound betrayal.
Imagine I didn’t give it away or throw it away, but absentmindedly returned it to the bookshelf. Years later I returned to it, fond memories flooding back to find with the horror that the last page was