Friday, August 24, 2007

Spaniard Says Steal

Many things that happen in books are unbelievable, but like everyone else I suspend my disbelief and get on with it. However, some things I cannot bring myself to believe and these items of disbelief have usually to do with the mundane. Such as, how come we never see Jason Bourne wanting desperately to use the loo after being on the run for days on end?

Or, how on earth can Hermione, who loves books and practically lives in the library, tear out pages from books instead of referring to them and making notes in another book (taking care as she is doing so, to write down the name of the publisher, date of publication, pages numbers and so on)?

This last is especially inconceivable for me, having been brought up to worship - if I worship anything at all - books. I always flip through entire books before I borrow them from the library, to see if they have pages missing and I’m indignant when they show signs of damage.

So I can forgive you your gasps of horror when I tell you the evil things I’ve done with books that don’t belong to me. Ok, let me rephrase that: I’ve never damaged books but I have caused or induced other people to do terrible things with magazines.

(Yes, that does make me less culpable, doesn’t it?)

In college, for some reason that I can’t immediately recall, I was avoiding S. We’d set up several dates and I’d cancelled each one on the flimsiest grounds. A normal guy, more or less as callow and clueless as I was, would have given up. But S, being older, wiser and infinitely more interesting for it, didn’t. Two days after I said, for the nth time, that I couldn’t meet him, I got a letter by post.

It was not the usual small yellow envelope; it was intriguingly large and I opened it carefully. Inside were several pages that had been torn out of a magazine. It was good, thick paper; not from one of the cheap glossies. I opened the pages that had been folded once, turned them over and gasped. It was an extract from Tom Robbins’ Skinny Legs and All. The dance of Salome bit. I started to read, ignoring until much later the little post-it note stuck on the first page. In it, I later found, S declared that he didn’t usually vandalise magazines, even for girls who stood him up. But he was the eternally forgiving sort, he said. That explained why he went against his instincts or upbringing, whichever was stronger. I can find it in me to regret some things from that time, but not those pages, which I still have somewhere.

Some years later, at the Institute, it was diploma time. It was also birthday time for me, and A asked me what I wanted. We were always broke, you understand, so it never even occurred to me to ask for something anyone might need to buy. Just days before, I’d been in the library, reading some film magazine (by which I do not mean Stardust). I can’t remember what this magazine was, but it had two pages, back-to-back, of the psychedelic Beatles posters in it.

I coveted them. I wanted those two pages more than anything else and I was even willing to consider hiding in some dark corner and ripping those pages out. But better sense prevailed. Besides, I did not want to ruin the posters by tearing them out badly. This was an operation of great delicacy and planning.

We weren’t allowed to borrow magazines from the FTII library. How to sneak this magazine out so I could use a good paper cutter to cut the pages evenly?

So when A asked what I wanted for my birthday, I told him.

The library people almost laid out the red carpet because this was probably the first time A was entering the library. All eyes were on us as I took him to the magazine stand, took out this one (I had half expected it to have disappeared. Malign forces frequently conspire to take away that which is most desired) and sat at a table.

A had to take the magazine out but how? No bags allowed. Eagle-eyed librarians all around. We walked through every aisle pretending great interest in every unlikely book – books about microphones, stuff like that.

“Put it in your t-shirt,” I hissed.

“No! I can’t lift my clothes in here. They’re all looking at us.”

“Please! There’s no other way you can take it out.”

“I’ll bring a cutter in here tomorrow and cut them out somewhere.”

“Tomorrow the magazine will be gone. Someone will take it away and say read the new ones that have just come. Please! You promised!”

Hard to do all this in the regulation library undertone. But I managed.

“Ok, fine. Just remember, I’m doing this only because it’s your birthday.”

A hid behind a shelf while I guarded one side of the aisle and he quickly tucked the magazine into his jeans.

“Done? Let’s go.”

Suddenly A was more calm and nonchalant than I was. He insisted that we browse for a while longer. I looked at his t-shirt and it was clear to me that we were going to get caught. I nearly said, put it back. Never mind about the posters.

Guilt vied with greed and greed won. Naturally. We left without getting arrested or grilled. Nobody even noticed.

Back in my room, we examined the two pages with a surgeon’s eye. A fished out a paper cutter from his bag. I turned away, unable to look.

Two minutes later, I was the proud owner of four posters - John and George on one page and Paul and Ringo on the other.

“Happy Birthday,” A said.

I beamed.

I wouldn’t do it myself, ever. I hate vandalising books.
But I can’t promise I’d never again ask someone to tear stuff out for me.

My conscience? Clean as a whistle. Did you doubt it?

9 comments:

Falstaff said...

Tsk! Tsk! I have to admit I've never considered tearing up magazines a big deal - my logic is they're designed to be shortlived anyway.

But stealing from libraries. Now that I have rules against.

Space Bar said...

Falstaff: I can't tear magazines; newspapers, yes. Old letter almost certainly. But magazines are a bit difficult. I know they're disposable and all, but still.

And now that you mention it, I don't think I did return the leftovers to the library. Oops.

SUR NOTES said...

bad bad girl! and delightful A - complete with the bong accent- thats him, right?

km said...

//what Falstaff said.

Then again, all rules are off when it comes to those Four Guys.

But there's something deliciously punk about stealing from a library - not that I would do it ;)

blackmamba said...

Spacebar, oh my god! Avedon's Beatles! These are the only prints in my living room.

Everything else, I mean everything - including the Bruegel, Klimt and Rothko are in my room.

Those prints are bl**dy expensive.

Veena said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Veena said...

SB: Agree with Falsie as a rule but there are exceptions.And these posters seem so worth it.

BM: Expensive? Not in my neighborhood, they are not. (relatively speaking) But wait, how would you know that now?

Space Bar said...

Sur: Yup. That's him alright.

km: Punk?! I'm offended! And if course all bets are off when it comes to the Beatles.

BM: These aren't original prints, you know. Just magazine paper stuff. But it's been framed eatly - flip it over and you can see the other guy. Like that Kandinsky in Six Degrees.

Veena: See above; it's not a print on good apper. But still, you know. Totally worth it.

lekhni said...

A Color Photocopy of the pages was just not good enough, I guess ? :(

But I agree, magazines are just not the same as books, because you know they are going to be thrown away sooner or later.