A couple of weeks ago, I wrote here about the rights of book owners. Some book owners I know were glad that somebody thought they have any. Which made me think that not only they (and I) are entitled to some rights (and wrongs): What about the rights of the books? `Tis true, they are inanimate objects, but even an avid book hater will have to admit that they do have souls. It is, therefore, the right time to formulate a charter listing the inalienable rights of books.
First and foremost, there is a dire need to ensure the right of every book to be written. So many books were aborted in the womb of their creator (or creatoress). And as a direct sequel, one has to ensure that every book should have equal rights to be published. So many books reach the threshold of a publishing house each year, but never cross it.
It has to be admitted that by defending the rights of books to be written and published, I encroach on my own rights as a book owner who is staggering under a deluge of new and old books that are adding another branch to the dense forest of books, in the midst of which I am sitting and writing. The explanation to that is that now I am writing about the rights of books, and not about my own rights.
But it is hardly enough to protect the right of books to be published. We should also strive to defend the right of each and every book to be published professionally, and to be printed on the right paper (acid free), after a careful and understanding process of copy and line editing, between beautifully designed covers. And if we are talking about a manuscript that has been translated, there is a real necessity to protect its right to be translated correctly, faithfully to the language of origin but befitting the "language of destination," or as the French say, "belle et fidele."
With all of these stipulations, we have not even started to scratch the surface of defining basic "bookish" rights. We have to ensure that every book will have an equal opportunity to receive the proper public relations when published, with interviews and features in every magazine and on every TV screen, in a way which will highlight the book itself, and not the private life of its creator, who got married, divorced, sick and healthy, rich and poor. And, of course, there must be the right to get a fair review in the literary supplement of every newspaper on the globe. The right to a place on the best-seller list should be self-evident, along the same lines as the right that enables me to submit my candidacy to a beauty contest in my place of employment.
We are not even half-way through the subject of the pursuit of happiness for books. What about the right to be distributed by a big firm, which will ensure that copies will be placed in a central spot in every book shop, preferably near the cash register (the place in the display window goes without saying)? And the right to be stocked by the shop for a long time (interminably).
Now, finally, we have reached the stage where one has to protect the rights of books not at the time of their creation, production or marketing, but during their long life in their new houses - be they private or public libraries. There is a real need to protect the right of each book to be bought by somebody who wishes it well, and who will tend to it lovingly. The right to possess a place on the shelf, well aired, not squeezed between bigger and heavier volumes, not in the second row. The right not to be lent, and if borrowed, the right to be returned safely, quickly and without harm.
And the right to be read! Not necessarily immediately, but sometime, by somebody. But carefully: If on the toilet, then without endangering its cover. If at the dining table, preferably without food and wine stains. If in bed, without pages folded when the book is laid face down, with its spine broken. And without pen and pencil markings.
Most important: one should protect the book from the onslaught by that dreadful invention, the bookmark made out of rough metal.
There is also the right not to be read. The right to get lost amid other books and never to be found. The right to wander during the night from shelf to shelf and talk to other books about their common owner, or any other subject. The right not to submit themselves to somebody they do not feel comfortable with. The right to protest against the use, in TV series, of the expression "book him!"
And, the book itself should have the inalienable right to relinquish one or all of the aforementioned rights, bar one: the right never to be shred.
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