Paper not Paper

I’m sure other people have this problem.  I read hardback books with the dust jacket off.  Lest anyone accuse me of being consistent, my wife reminds me that I debated the opposite side early in our marriage.  I guess I’m complex.  In any case, the problem I face is with things pretending to be what they’re not.  This particular book is “cloth-bound.”  I own quite a few cloth-bound volumes, but this one is so slick that I keep dropping it.  It slips right through my fingers.  The reason this happens is because “cloth-bound” seldom means “cloth”-bound.  Modern binderies offer a textured paper covering that looks like cloth but it’s not.  In other words, although this book is not a paperback, it has, in fact, a paper back.  This is more than just semantics.

When looking for a house one of my non-negotiables was that it couldn’t have vinyl siding.  Vinyl siding pretends to be wooden cladding, and I require authenticity.  I don’t want a substance saying it’s something that it’s not.  You see, I grew up in a plain-speaking, blue-collar environment.  The last time I visited my mother’s trailer to get something from her former neighbor who’d moved in, it was summer.  I stepped out of the car and although I’d said maybe less than two sentences to this man in our meetings over the years his first words to me were “What are you all dressed up for?”  A bespectacled, white-bearded veteran, he was wearing a tank-top tee-shirt.  I had on a button-down that had been recently laundered.  I loved his authentic approach.  It was hot out, so why was I “dressed up”?

Book-binding actually has a fascinating history.  Books were originally sold as sheaves of paper in a “book block.”  In the early days booksellers often did the binding themselves, or customers would buy a book block and take it to a bindery of their choice.  That’s why there’s no uniformity in old book covers.  Eventually, however, mechanization allowed for books to be bound before being shipped to book sellers.  Early binding tended to be leather, which is why many Bibles are still sold that way.  I found all of this out from reading various books.  Which ones they were have slipped my mind.  Probably they were bound in paper, pretending to be cloth.  Cloth binding is more expensive than paper-pretending-to-be-cloth binding.  That’s why publishers use it.  The same applies to vinyl siding, I suspect.  Only with human beings does pretend authenticity become more expensive.  

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