Needs a bit of salt…

Pradeep Sebastian writes in The Hindu:
“There are really only two kinds of readers — those who write in books, and those who don’t. I myself have never been able to scribble in the margins but several of my friends never begin a book without a soft pencil in hand. Coleridge, a compulsive book scribbler, called it marginalia.”
Make that “three kinds of readers”. The Babu never writes in books–blame his stern Bengali Brahmo upbringing for that, we internalised the idea that books were sacred objects not to be desecrated by pen, pencil or snot at a very early age. On the other hand, he used to be a bibliophage. Books from an earlier period of typesetting, when it was considered correct to leave a great deal of space in the margins, were all too literally devoured; never the text, just the great wide open spaces to left and right. Some notes from that period: onionskin paper does not taste of onions, more like communion wafers. Old books taste of silverfish, or perhaps I actually ingested a few silverfish along with the odd torn-off bit of paper–can’t remember. Bengali books tasted of ants–slightly peppery. Glossy paper leaves an aftertaste, like bad wine, that lingers forever. Really good books taste slightly biscuity. The paper that contemporary books are printed on doesn’t taste of anything much but often smells like toilet paper, which might explain why the Babu lost his taste for eating off the margins about a decade or so ago. And the most savoury of all the books I’ve ever tasted was a copy of Lolita printed on really fine, creamy paper. Reminded me of runny Brie.


  1. Bibliophage…Arrey Babu, you’re too funny. Would you like to eat your own words someday? This makes me wonder how different authors might taste different: Naipaul who’s tart on the tongue and reliably gives one indigestion, Ishiguro who tastes (rather) dainty (I dare say) and (if memory serves me right) leaves an empty feeling in the stomach, Rushdie-too-much-masala-too-little-food, Pankaj Mishra who’s exactly like butter chicken: unexpectedly satisfying, etc.elck(

  2. The Babu kind of book lover can also be called the carnal lover. No dog ears, no spine creasing, no putting book open on its face…and no mariginilia either.Right, Babu?

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