May 11, 2018
Librarians are fed up with you people using cheese to mark your pages
by Tom Clayton
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever used as a bookmark? A feather? A candy wrapper? An old photograph of a man’s rear end? (The latter is not just idle conjecture; I once found a second-hand copy of Humboldt’s Gift that contained exactly this)… I’m sure you think you have some pretty wacky answers to this question. I personally favour a laminated watercolour picture of a ring-necked parakeet, given to me by a dear friend (right).
But I’ve never once even considered using a Kraft single, just one of the many bizarre and seemingly logistically impossible objects that Lynsi Burton lists in SFGate this week, inspired by an exasperated tweet from Washington librarian Anna Holmes, and subsequently mentioned on the NPR game show Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.
It’s a piece that raises a lot of questions. Chief among them: What drives a person to consider a slice of cheese an acceptable bookmark? So, in the spirit of serious investigation this site is renowned for, I’ve listed some of the more eye-catching objects mentioned in the article below — along with some potential scenarios that might have resulted in them being used. Apologies in advance.
- A rasher of bacon — Picture the scene: you’re halfway through breakfast. The eggs and the baked beans have been polished off (everyone knows you eat them first, right), and you’ve still got some bacon, a sausage, and a slice of toast to come. What a great morning! You’re feeling pretty good about yourself. And you’re enjoying your library book, too. But! Then! The phone rings in the other room. You ignore it. It rings again. And again. It must be urgent. There’s only one logical thing to do in this situation: pop some bacon in your book. Go right ahead, it’s fine.
- The blade—the actual tooth’d blade!—of a circular saw — Picture the scene: you’re halfway through some light carpentry. You’re also reading at the same time for some reason? (DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME, FOLKS.) But, boy, it’s hot in the woodshop. The lathe has been abuzz all morning, and you’re ready for some refreshment. You’ve got a cold can of lemonade in the fridge with your name on it. So you switch off the saw, wait for the blade to cool down (you’re not totally mad), detach that now-cool, and oh-so-conveniently flat blade, and pop it in your book. Just nestle it in there. What could be more normal?
- A used condom — Picture the scene: you’re halfway through — OK maybe we’d better skip over this one!
- Broccoli — OK, this one is genuinely baffling because the article doesn’t specify the part—or indeed the volume—of broccoli used here. Let’s assume a single floret, because anything else would be sheer madness. Even so, you’re gonna struggle to close a book fully on a floret of broccoli, unless it’s been overcooked into a malleable mush. Maybe I’m over-thinking this? Whatever the truth, I’ll bet that book was just littered with those little bobbly green bits. Yeesh.
- Banana peel — We’re still in the realm of fruits and vegetables. But at least this one’s flat, I guess? The squish factor is pretty high here, regardless.
- A donut; a whole donut — I’d love to pretend to be shocked at this, but once, back when I worked at Foyles, I was tasked with cleaning behind the shelves, and retrieved an entire, dust-covered, semi-mummified donut from under the “New Releases” section. It cracked into two neat dry, desiccated halves as soon as I touched it. So clearly there’s something going on here with book-lovers and donut-enjoyers, which is probably another blog for another time.
- Unpaid bills — 100% with them on this one, to be honest. Out of sight, out of mind.
- Ketchup — “Ketchup” is all the article says. So what are we talking here? A sachet? A very small bottle? Or, the most terrifying prospect, one or several smears? If the latter, then the most pressing question is: how did they know it was ketchup? *Shudder*
- Daffodils — Thought we’d end on a nice one because, let’s face it, this has been harrowing. Anyway daffs are nice, aren’t they? Awww.
I fear this exercise may have raised more questions than it answered, and for that, I can only apologise. But the message is clear, guys: next time you need to mark the page of a library book and find yourself reaching for a perishable foodstuff: have a word with yourself and maybe just remember what page you were on? But never, ever fold the page over. We might live in a world where people use chicken legs as bookmarks, but we’re not savages.
Tom Clayton is the publishing executive at Melville House UK.