I Have Some Problems Reading My New Used Book
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The badly creased paper cover and a few permanently dog-eared pages don't put me off at all. At $1.98 plus tax at Book Blow-Out in the mall, the book is a steal! (Retail price new: $12.99 plus tax.) I rush home with my new purchase and eagerly settle down for a read.

After picking a squashed bug or old sneeze off the flyleaf with my thumbnail, I dive in on page 1. But first, the inscription inside the front cover demands a look: 'To Patty on her 12th birthday. Love, Miriam.' Really, this difficult Japanese novel doesn't strike me as an appropriate gift for a 12-year-old, birthday or no birthday. What was Miriam thinking, and is she dense? The plot thickens, and I haven't even started the book.

I'm on page five, and already I have double vision from all the yellow highlighter streaks. WTF? I guess I was so eager to save money that I didn't notice this little defect back at the store. Also, it would appear that Patty, or more likely someone older than Patty such as her parent, unloaded the demanding book, and a college student snatched it up cheap for class – a strangely indiscriminate student too, to highlight so much. Am I missing something in my reading, or is the sentence 'Children of the village were skiing in the fields' really that important? And a lot of other blinding yellow sentences seem just as trivial. I'm worried.

  
 
The pages of this book are amazingly dry. Some are fracturing when I turn them, and I can almost feel them sucking the moisture out of my fingertips. Flipping back to the front, I find that the book was printed in 1972. For paper, that's old. Book Blow-Out had another copy of the book, much newer and nicer, for only a dollar more, and maybe I should have got it. But I didn't because I wanted to maximize my cost savings.

The longer I hold the book open, the more I notice a fetid odor. Subtle at first, it reminds me, as I keep on turning the pages, of the time that drunk stranger who sat beside me on the bus belched in my face after puking in the aisle. Just how many previous owners has this book had? It doesn't seem possible that 12-year-old Patty and one college student could have imparted a stench like this to the pages. I lay the book on the air duct grate in my living room floor, pages fanned open, and let it breathe for an hour. I also give it a shot of spray disinfectant, just to be safe.

I am about to learn how well the young geisha picks the Japanese guitar when-- crap!--a dried and mostly faded tomato sauce or chocolate stain, deposited on page 97 years ago by a gross pig of a reader, interrupts her performance. Her ornamental sash, I'm glad to report, escapes defilement. But I'm only hoping this is tomato sauce or chocolate. What if it's the remnant of an explosive nosebleed from a previous reader who had HIV? Is it still infectious? Anyway, I can't make out several words in this revolting and possibly hazardous paragraph, and quickly skim it. Now I don't know if the powdered girl can shred or only play three chords.

Tucked between pages 115 and 116, in almost the exact middle of the book, I find a sales receipt dated February 12, 1984. Obviously, it functioned as a bookmark. That some reader, who I assume was the last before me to crack the book, gave up halfway through showing a lack of perseverance. That he or she paid $6.99 plus tax for a lawn chair at Wal-Mart shows a lack of style.

Pp. 198-199. Cat hair (?).

Pp. 225-226. Cracker crumbs (?).

P. 274. Anti-geisha, feminist marginal note. It's a thought I hadn't considered, but is it truly perceptive? The more I think about it, it seems to represent a complete misunderstanding of the author's culture. I press on, but something about that note galls me. Almost done!

The last six pages are missing. That's it. This thing goes in the trash, and I'm off to Borders for a new edition. I'll finish the book in the café, leave it on the table when I'm done, and only pay for a coffee. This will increase my total expenses by the price of a coffee, but still: I save!

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