Readerz N Bookhood
John Lavery, The Green Hammock, 1905
From the Guardian:
In Portable Magic – the phrase is borrowed from Stephen King – Smith’s subject is the materiality of reading, or what she calls “bookhood”. Books in their physical form turn out to be endlessly adaptable, not just in the domestic space as doorstops, yoga blocks, and occasional kindling when times are tough, but out in the world too. In the first world war, pocket-sized Bibles were clad in full metal jackets in the hope that, carried close to the heart, they might save a soldier from enemy fire while also saving his soul. More mundane is the revelation that, at the beginning of this century, fragments of some 2.5m copies of Mills & Boon novels were used to create an absorbent, noise-reducing layer for surfacing the M6 toll motorway in the Midlands. This, though, should not be taken as a comment on commercial romantic fiction: Smith reminds us that being turned into substratum, or something like it, is the fate of most books, high or low. Her own publisher, the esteemed Penguin Random House, runs a large “centralised returns processing site” in Essex which shreds, crushes and bales around 25,000 of its own books every single day.
“Portable Magic by Emma Smith review – a love letter to reading”, Kathryn Hughes, The Guardian