Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Dangerous books

Today I was surfing the web and came across this story about a man whose apartment collapsed because he had too many magazines and newspapers in it. I looked around my room and started to feel nervous. Tomorrow I'm going to tackle some of the books I have piled up around here, I promised myself. Nobody should have this many books in one room. Besides anything else, it's dangerous.

And speaking of dangerous books, The Man and I were in Osaka last Friday and he took me to one of his favourite second hand bookstores, where they also have a few English books. I was browsing the shelves and came across a large black book called How to Kill People Without Enjoyment. "Look at this!" I laughed, and picked it up. I thought it was a mystery, or perhaps something humorous. But it wasn't. It was a textbook, and it actually had instructions about HOW TO KILL PEOPLE (I didn't get to the 'without enjoyment' bit) and it had PHOTOGRAPHS AND DIAGRAMS AND EVERYTHING. I mean, if you actually wanted to kill somebody this book had about a thousand different ways to do it, in meticulous detail. It was all very dry and technical, so that you could easily forget this was a book about KILLING PEOPLE and not about, say, gardening. Except that you couldn't forget, really, because the pictures weren't of flowers and trees but of expressionless figures with knives between their ribs, or wires around their throats.

I put the book back down. Then I thought, nah, it can't be! and picked it up again. But yes, it was still telling me which ribs were the best ones to stick the knife between, with diagrams of the angle to use, and which sort of knife worked best, and how to do it quickly and quietly without being caught. There were whole sections on poisons and bombs and how to rig a car and so on. I stared into space for a while wondering how on earth this book had ended up in a little Japanese secondhand bookstore.

The Man calling my name brought me back to earth, and I guiltily put the book back on the shelf. (Just looking through a book like that makes you feel guilty, I found.) He introduced me to the young people who ran the store. The beautiful young woman told me, in English, that she really enjoyed The Man's visits to the store. "His talk is very interesting," she said. "He is very attractive." She smiled gorgeously.

I wondered if I should slap her face, but she was obviously totally unaware that this was not really an appropriate thing to say. She was complimenting me, I think. (Unless she wasn't, in which case perhaps I should go back and buy that book after all.)

When we got home I tried to find the book on the web, thinking I might be able to find out something about it. I couldn't find it. Perhaps it was privately published. I didn't check who the publisher was. I intended to, but got distracted by a huge long disclaimer in the front about how the publisher wasn't responsible for any abuse of the information within the book.

I know that there could be a legitimate reason to buy a book like that. Murder mystery writers, for example, might buy it so they can add some realistic detail to their novels. But what I really want to know is this: What kind of person wrote it?


D-Thinker said...

If only he had e-books. The cpu seems to have solved the problem of space. Which is I guess relevant in Japan i.e in connection to living space.

Badaunt said...

The cpu hasn't really solved my space problem, at least not yet. I still keep buying books. But I don't buy newspapers the way I used to, so perhaps it's working in that respect.

tinyhands said...

I think I would have bought that book if for no other reason than to keep someone else from buying it. There's a very real possibility that whomever does buy it may be interested in lifting the fingerprints of previous readers off of it. I'm worried for you now.

melinama said...

My only thought about the strange book: can anybody think of any other instance in which any author advises us on doing something without pleasure?

About the crush/clutter thing, I'm toying with this idea: every time I bring something new into the house, a greater or equal number (or weight or volume) of things must be carried out.

I have a friend who will never buy another hanger. And if she buys a new dress, it has to go on a hanger, and that means one of the things which currently occupies a hanger must be given away.

Love your blog.

depressoboy said...

Many moons ago, I used to work at Borders Books (a rather large chain in the USA). We used to get requests to special order the book "One Shot, One Kill" on a regular basis. Quite often the people would not want to leave a name or phone number to be contacted at when their order came in.

Often, they were the sort people we describe as "a bit off". The store also had a standing policy that we would not order "The Anarchist's Cookbook". If asked, all booksellers were to make the effort to look it up and then reply that the book was unavailable or out of print.

Sorry for intruding, I rather enjoy reading your blog and this entry in particular caught my eye.

Badaunt said...

Tinyhands: I'm worried too, now. Perhaps on Friday I'll buy the book, if it's still there.

Melinama: The 'without pleasure' bit was disturbing especially because it suggests the opposite. I mean, why specify it, otherwise?

I like your idea about how to keep clutter to a minimum. The problem is getting it to a minimum first. Right now it's out of control.

Depressoboy: The Borders policy sounds like a sensible one, but I'm afraid the information is available elsewhere (the Internet!) these days anyway. Scary thought.

Also, no need to apologize for 'intruding' - that's what comments are for!

Mellie Helen said...

Do you suppose...if you do purchase that book, do you suddenly get placed on some terrorist list?

Anonymous said...

I've had a bookshelf collapse before. (In the middle of the night) Talk about SCARY! Needless to say, I took off some of the books that I hadn't been reading and put them in boxes in the closet.