How to Eat a Book

How to Eat a Book

A Story by R.J. Seoul

Proper use and care instructions for books.



For some reason my mother has always taken my breath away. My heart always pumps a little faster as I listen to the soft caressing voice that is ushered from her kind lips. I owe my life to her love, and owe my writing to her passion.
 Four years after my life began; I closed my eyes for the first time sitting in a small bookstore across the town of Loveland, Ohio. I was only in preschool, but I understood the sadness my mother felt in the retched town, I understood how trapped she felt, but was lost in every attempt I made to cheer her up. It wasn’t until that day, the day my mother took me to the bookstore and told me to close my eyes as she flipped through the pages of a classic novel. The name of the book escapes me now, but this novel was her key to be released from the shackles of Loveland, it was her freedom.   I still remember what the words were about, they followed a young and wounded soldier under a tree for shelter as the grass around him turned to mud, swarming with the fall of enemy bombs, and filling the mass of holes with water from the sky. The tree held him safe from the eyes of his enemy, and a small monkey came down with an apple for the soldier, lying with him until he passed. (I only remember the apple as I had just shoved a small chunk of a poppy seed muffin in my mouth as my mother read the monkeys expedition). It was that same day that my mother handed me my first bob book, and taught me how to turn the keys of my own adventures.
As I think back on it, that day I learned not only how to use the words of a book to fill my imagination, but also that caring for a book was no harder a concept than eating. See there are three different types of eaters; picky, boorish, and respectful, just as there are three different types of readers. Anne Fadiman, author of the essay Never do that to a Book explains the first two beautifully. She says there are two types of readers, courtly, and carnal, but disappointingly she leaves out a dire median between the two the reasonable reader.
A picky eater can have a tender, juicy baby back rib smothered in the golden drizzle of the perfect barbeque sauce, and dig in disgracing the piece of meat by using a knife and fork. Just the same a courtly reader can sit in front of a book reading silently, careful not to bend the spine just too far, and thinking all the time of how hard to turn the pages of the modern miracle of a book in front of them. All the while, they fail to fully enjoy the pleasures of the book, as they are so easily distracted by the beauty of its shell. My own grandfather looks upon a book in disgrace if he finds one of the miraculous spines bent too far, showing a small crooked line where the paint of the cover has fallen off, revealing the soft white underbelly of its protective cloak. In the most severe of disobediences he has been know to throw the whole book away. (As if a simple cut through the skin of the book affects the organs that had once held him so brilliantly entranced!) Why, if you dislike olives, and order a salad to find it carries what you so gravely loath, what do you do? You eat around the blackened creatures, and enjoy the rest of your salad; never would you send it back!
Worse than a picky eater though, is the boorish type, the type that will sit in front of that same type of rib and dig their teeth strait into it, forgetting the beauty of the smell, and the light shimmering off the glazed sauce. They will simply shove the hunkering piece of meat in their undeserving mouths, eager to taste the beauty only for a second then take a drag of beer to quench their thirst. It is this same way with the carnal readers. They will literally tear into a book, ripping pages as they go! The disgrace that follows this action is terrible; it’s immoral to just rip the centre of the page as you accidentally turn too fast, but to deliberately rip out chapters! Oh, the gruesome image of a lone book cover in a grave of its own pages, laying forever out of order and faced with the tragic fact that their words will only be read once. I can only imagine a Hershey bar’s soft milk chocolate being devoured soon followed by the slick packaging that once enveloped it.
            Majority of the population is not seized by the sad symptoms of being boorish or picky; instead the majority is what I have come to call a respectable eater. The respectful eater is not picky about the food that they receive, and is willing to try anything once, though, this eater is also not willing to devour a prime rib without first dabbling it in the delectable glaze, lifting it up to their mouth, following with a slight inhale to remember the smell of the delicious slab of meat. They are willing to use cutlery when necessary, to pick up the small green beans that are floating with the glaze, soaking in a chorus of flavor and texture. It is this type of eater that resembles the reasonable reader. 
            A reasonable reader realizes that you must use a book to read, and to love the words written on its pages. That you should not allow a book to be chewed upon, nor should you allow it to be perfectly unopened. A reasonable reader uses a book as one would use your silverware, intuitively. Turning the fork to cut the meat, and fold the corner to mark the page. Lift the bowl to drink the milk left over from a bowl of cereal, and use a pen to remember your thoughts and opinions.   They know it is not the phrases that are important, but the individual words chosen to make that phrase, just as it is not the cereal that is important, but the calcium filled milk that lies at the bottom of the bowl when you are done. So all should be free to write, highlight and underline in each book as they wish. A reasonable reader knows that reading is just as important as eating.
            As I think back to that miraculous day when my mother opened the first of many doors in my future, and bought my tongue that tasty poppy seed muffin. I remember exactly how I ate that muffin. My eyes were shut hard, so I had to feel the soft cushiony texture in my tiny fingers as it glided first to my mouth, then to my nose, I gently inhaled the sweet smell of sugar and poppy, sending my senses to the heavens, and my mind to the monkey in the story. It handed the apple to the soldier, and I’ll bet you I know how that soldier ate that bitter-sweet morsel, I’ll bet you the wounded soldier ate that apple enjoying every lengthy second.

© 2008 R.J. Seoul

Author's Note

R.J. Seoul
If you disagree with me please pose your own argument.

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this is not only beautifully written but also full of true...
your narrative style manages the images so clear to the reader...wonderful

Posted 12 Years Ago

The individual words are a good piece of what we write.

Posted 12 Years Ago

Ohhh well done! Well done! You're exactly right, and all hail the "reasonable reader". I can't agree more with your thesis (if I can call it that), and I wouldn't have been able to describe it better if I'd done it myself.
An excellent observation, and an even better metaphor, makes this my favorite 'story' I've read on this site since I joined.

Thank you!

Posted 12 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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4 Reviews
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Added on March 18, 2008


R.J. Seoul
R.J. Seoul


Throughout my life I have embraced challenges, and used obstacles to further my knowledge, and to help prepare myself for the future. Usually I express myself through writing, and often jot down crazy.. more..