This may come as no surprise to a few of you who read Bec Crew’s blog post on Scientific American’s website a few weeks ago but there is such a thing as book scorpions. Yes, you’ve read correctly: book scorpions. They are real, unfortunately.
I discovered their existence this morning while catching up on emails. I’m way behind. I’ve subscribed to one too many newsletters. I think it was while reading a newsletter from Shelf Awareness that I found a link directing me to Crew’s blog post. My morning was going great until then. One of my biggest book peeves is bugs that eat books and while I should love book scorpions since they feed on such pests, their appearance is not one I would be glad to see.
According to Crew, book scorpions, properly known as pseudoscorpions, are tiny insects that hunt booklice and dust mites that feed on the starch-based glue used to bind books. Like a scorpion, they have long, pincer-like claws protruding from their sides called pedipalps that are twice as long as their legs (I wonder if they ever get tired carrying those around). The one thing I found cool about these bugs is that their respiratory organs are called book lungs because they “look just like the warped pages of an old book.” They’re more bookish than me.
Book scorpions grow to about 4mm in length. They look a bit like bed bugs to me. When not hunting and feeding, book scorpions can be found engaging in a mating dance, prepping to create the next batch eewy-looking bugs. Crew provides a quick run-down of this mating exercise. Though helpful, I do not want to see these bugs scuttling about my bookshelves. As with the silverfish, I will war against them. And since I’m a bit paranoid after reading this article, I shall now proceed to cleaning my bookshelf and reinforcing it with book spray. (A link to Bec Crew’s article is below.)
So I’m sitting in my room lost in a daydream when I see an insect scamper across the wall. Shocked, I immediately jump out of bed and hunt him down. I had never seen an insect like that before and it prompted me to run a Google search. The more I discovered, the more pissed I became which led me to do this post on my bookish pet peeves.
Bending the pages
I HATE when people do this to my books. I can hardly tolerate it when they do it to their own or to library books. Treat the books with some respect! Though, there is something charming about a well-worn book that is all bended, folded, scraped, and torn. A book that has been held in many hands and read in myriad places.
Asking to borrow my books
Yes, I am one of those snobbish bibliophiles who hate to loan a book. I’ll even go so far as to purchase the book for you so you’ll leave mine alone (family members and close friends only). It’s selfish and silly but loaning books lead to bended covers, torn pages, and possible loss of the book since borrowers never seem to remember to RETURN what they borrow….speaking from experience on that last one. I refrain from borrowing books. I have a library card. I hardly use it. I’m one of those people who usually have an unnecessarily high library debt. Why? Because I forget. I can’t help it. It’s not intentional, I just do.
Silverfish….and other book-eating bugs
The reason for this post. Unfortunately in this world there are insects who love to eat books and even more unfortunate is that my house is plagued with them. Where are they coming from? I don’t know. We recently moved and I guess they were here awaiting our arrival. I’ve seen them a few times at night, lurking in corners, crawling on walls, waiting for me to turn off the lights and go to sleep so they can attack my precious. These bugs are quick, little scampers. They are silvery-grey and have too many legs. They like warm, humid climes and love to feed on starch. They do not bite or spread any diseases and it seems that one could live peaceably with them if one does not mind many-legged insects crawling about the house but I’m not such a person. The mere sight of them is enough to rile me and have me running for the insect spray. So I’ve declared war on them. Prepare to be eliminated little fuckers!
I had the misfortune of being caught in a deluge the other day. I was returning from a trip to New York and the sky was bright and sunny. No need to worry about a thunderstorm, I thought. A few minutes walking down the road proved me wrong. The sky quickly grayed and it suddenly began to rain as if the clouds were unable to hold their water once they appeared. Luckily, I had an umbrella but it was of little use! I was soaked within minutes. My suitcase was as well. I was dragging it behind me and it was filled with paperbacks given to me by my aunt. Once I got home and started to unpack, I saw that my books were all crinkled and soggy, the pages sticking together. I almost cried. They were new books. I just hate it when my books are ruined before I’ve had the chance to read them.
I’m thinking of Robert Jordan’s 13-book series (which I am nowhere near finishing). It’s too damn long for no good reason. I am on book five of the Wheel of Time series and I wonder if I will ever finish the books in this lifetime. I am not daunted by large books or long series. What turns me off is when a book is large because the author is stalling, or when chapters are filled with pointless internal dialogue or an overkill on landscape descriptions (all of which Jordan does). I am sure the books could have been condensed to a series that is half of its current amount.
Well, that’s it for my tirade. What are your bookish pet peeves?
Note on the featured image because it’s so cool. It’s a photograph taken by Cara Barer, a photographer based in Houston, Tex. She transforms damaged books into art and also does book-sculpting. I’m in love with her work. I guess it’s the only way I can tolerate a damaged book.