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If you borrow this book, you have to return it: Arielle Greenberg.

January 18, 2011 \am\31 8:00 am

[For this series, I’ve asked some wondrous writers to reflect on an individual copy of a book that is very important to them. Writers and publishers have varied and often impassioned relationships to their analog books, as actual books are still arguably the “realest” physical manifestation of their poetic pursuits. I think that as the Kindle and other digital representations of text continue their upward spiral, it’s important to reflect on books as the uniquely funky-smelling, emotion-provoking, paper-cutting, dust/coffee/spaghetti sauce-collecting artifacts that they are! Check back next week for more top picks!]

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Arielle Greenberg is co-author, with Rachel Zucker, of Home/Birth: A Poemic (1913 Press, 2011), and author of My Kafka Century, Given and several chapbooks.  She is co-editor of three anthologies, most recently Gurlesque (Saturnalia, 2010) with Lara Glenum. She is the founder-moderator of the poet-moms listserv and is an Associate Professor at Columbia College Chicago. She lives in Evanston, IL with her family.

I wish I had books whose copies I cherish more.  There are literary books I love beyond measure, but because I tend to be a little bit of a neat freak about such books, I don’t put them through much wear and tear: I try not to crack the spine too hard, I don’t write in them, I don’t eat while I read.  As a result, I don’t have a particularly intimate relationship with the specific copies I own of these books, although I often do with the content.  (I guess the books of literature that come to mind as objects I treasure are rare copies of things I find used, so that someone else, and time, have put them through wear and tear.  I actually love objects with a bit of a patina, but I myself have a hard time being hard on precious things.)

The only book copies I really feel strongly about are the ones I really put through the wringer: some books that I’ve had since I was a child; and my cookbooks, which open to the recipes I use most, include my annotations and changes, and are full of my life and the life of my family in the form of spills, stains and splatters.

I’m including a picture of my childhood copy of In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak.  This copy belonged to me and both of my sisters, so I’m not totally sure the scribbling on this page was done by me, but I think it was, because I have a distinct memory of being really titillated by the pictures of naked Mickey, and I think I drew on his face on these pages out of a mixture of delight and shame and relief and regret about that nakedness, and that the naked portion of the story was now over: he’s back in his pajamas.  I feel like this scribbling was a kind of early pre-sexual response to pre-sexual material.  (I also think I was aware of sexual feeling really, really young.)

How To Cook Everything

On a much more mundane note, here’s me with my copy of How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman.  It’s one of my favorite cookbooks, and although we haven’t had it long, it’s already totally beaten up: pages are falling out of it, the spine is ruined, I’ve written in it.  I think we should probably get a new copy–and I wish cookbook publishers would make their books more durable!–but this one has a list of the yummiest meals we’ve cooked on the inside of the front cover, and my alterations to the basic pancake recipe.  I like cookbooks with very particular interior designs: I don’t like a lot of photos or stories; I like the type to be pretty small; I like them to feel functional and friendly.  Mark Bittman’s cookbooks’ design are my cookbook ideal.

I was recently at my mother’s house and saw the copy of Wifey, by Judy Blume, which she’s had since I was a child and which I read as a pre-teen and teenager.  It’s a dirty, wonderful book, and I spent many happy hours with it.  It was well-used by me (and by no one else in my family, I think), and it made a big impression on me.  I wish I could have stolen it for this feature, but I didn’t think that’d be right.

Arielle Greenberg is co-author, with Rachel Zucker, of Home/Birth: A Poemic (1913 Press, 2011), and author of My Kafka Century, Given and several chapbooks.  She is co-editor of three anthologies, most recently Gurlesque (Saturnalia, 2010) with Lara Glenum. She is the founder-moderator of the poet-moms listserv and is an Associate Professor at Columbia College Chicago. She lives in Evanston, IL with her family.
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