Responsible Reading | Newberry

Responsible Reading

We have had to change a number of our habits during the current social distancing era. People who used to give away free hugs have probably been locked away for assault with a deadly weapon, and the folks who used to stand around on street corners holding up signs advertising conspiracy theories must feel even lonelier now than they did in the days when we were hurrying past them, trying not to make eye contact. (I don’t suppose many of them were left in any case. They’ve all taken to the Interwebs to prove their case that chicken pox was introduced into the world by the CIA.)

Like any good and true blogger, my job is to tell you everything you’ve been doing is wrong. There are those who say my essays on how to pack books should have won me the Pulitzer for telling people off, and I never got into my theory that the dreaded banana box was a plot introduced by agents…never mind. Whole nother blog.

But I thought some of you might be concerned enough about your health habits to know what you need to do to read books safely during the current crisis. Are you doing this right, or are you risking your life just trying to find out if Charlie Bucket EVER gets a bar with a Golden Ticket?

Well, I hate to break your heart, but you’re probably safe. Yes, I know: the experts are still out on how long this Virus of the Year can continue to exist on a book, but what consensus I can derive from the Interwebs is that two weeks is about the limit. (Getting ANYTHING pinned down on the Internet is like that fine old maxim, Twelve fortune cookies sittin’ in a row: six say yes and six say no.) So if the book has been in your To Read Pile for the last six months, and hasn’t been exposed to anyone more infected than you, you are probably safe. (The Interwebs aew also rather unsure of how dangerous it is for you to catch the virus from yourself, but I’m putting that rather low on my own list of worries.)

HOWEVER, there are a few guidelines I can pass along to make you safer.

Those of you who mark your place in a book with a square of toilet paper had better cut it out. Not only does this advertise where you do most of your reading, but you may be mugged for your bookmark in these TP-challenged times.

If you are one of those persons who licks their fingers to turn a page, cut it out. Frankly, you should not have needed a virus emergency to think of that. Just stop it. (There was a mystery novel where the villain realized the victim’s habit would be a help, and poisoned the edges of the pages of the book. Now, of course, all he has to do is sneeze on it.)

Those of you who like to eat chips or popcorn while you read, or even a corned beef sandwich, would be well advised to practice eating with one hand and turning pages in the book with the other. That’s kind of good advice even without taking the virus into consideration. And DON’T stick that half eaten slice of cheese in as a bookmark. (I know it’s efficient, in case you don’t have a snack handy next time you pick up the book, but think about flattening your curves.)

Those of you who have a tendency to weep at the moments of crisis in the story should supply yourselves with tissues, and catch these tears in that rather than let them fall on the book. If you have wiped the tears from your face with your hands, run and wash your hands NOW, and wash them as long as it takes to recite the first stanza of The Psalm of Life, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, including the title and the poet’s name. (By the way, they keep telling us to wash our hands after touching our faces, but never tell us to wash our face. Is this because no one makes FACE sanitizer?)

Those of you who thumb your nose at Uncle Blogsy’s columns just touched your face. Go wash your hands. Recite the first stanza of Casey at the Bat. It’s too long, but serves you right.