Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Fragrance of Paper

See this sepia-colored photo?
This is an actual photo of my Grade One teacher, Miss Oystryck, hard at work on the mimeograph machine!
Moron, I mean… more on this in a bit.

I finished the absolutely fabulously good novel Libra today. Written [by Don DeLillo] back in 1988, this fictionalized version of the events leading up to the JFK assassination should not be missed! Very well done.
Anyhoo, so I got to the part where Lee Harvey Oswald gets the job at the Texas Book Depository. Legend has it that Oswald fired shots at the President from the perfect vantage point at the sixth-floor window.
When he first gets the job, he is overwhelmed with the sheer amount of books up there. “All these books. Books stacked ten cartons high.”
I tuned right in!
No, not because I am a would-be assassin! But because I would love to work around books like this.
Then it says, on page 369: When you open a fresh carton you get the fragrance of paper, of book pages and binding. It floods you with memories of school.
When I read this, I was flooded with memories of school.

See, I started school in the PPE. -- [Pre-Photocopy Era] --
Photocopying only got going in the latter 1960’s. Back when I was in Grade One, the teachers still toiled away at the mimeograph machine for all their duplication needs. [See above photo].
And those freshly mimeographed sheets, handed to us in class, they had a real smell to them.
Do any of you out there know what I’m talking about?
I would just totally sit there and smell it. Smell the paper.
The ink. Usually a pale blue, sort of.
Those sheets of paper, they elicited some sort of warm feeling for me. Warm and yet cool, at the same time. And even at that early stage of my life, I grew to associate that smell of ink and paper with something I very much wanted to have around me, at all times.
And so, DeLillo’s words took me back to school, yes.

But they also made me wonder if this childhood love of the mimeographed sheets is the reason that still today, I love the smell of books.
In a bookstore, I often will take a new book off the shelf, nonchalantly look to the left and right of me – and then SMELL THE THING.
Ram my nose right in there! Not kidding now, this is serious stuff.
Even right now, I am writing this from the Starbucks inside a bookstore, and I am illegally reading a Norman Mailer book from off the shelf [without buying the book] and seriously, this book smells terrific.
So yes, I am a certifiable lunatic.
But at least… umm… at least the fragrance of books doesn’t make me go and assassinate anyone.


Anonymous said...

What can I say about you, Cippy, that hasn't been said before? You are hilarious. Adorable. CRAZY!! Just like me.

I remember that delicious smell of those mimeographed sheets at school! You could get high on that stuff. And the paper would still be wet with the ink as the teacher handed out the sheets to you. Sometimes you'd get that blue crap on your fingers. Or there'd be little blue stains and blobs on the hand-out, and maybe even a typo, or a cross-out correction. The beauty in the imperfection of it all! Ahhh...I miss that stuff.

And sniffing books? Don't get me started...

Smell ya later, dude!

Cipriano said...

I KNEW I would find a... a mimeograph sniffer!
I caught many a buzz on mimeographed handouts!
Hell, yeah!
Remember how sometimes it was not quite dry yet, even? As you say, you'd get it on your fingers then?
Oh my God.
As I recall.... it was often BLURRY, too!

Beth said...

I loved that smell, too. Now I'm wondering if such wonderful memories are due to the fact we all got a bit high on sniffing those pages.

Jeane said...

I remember the mimeographs. They had a purplish-blue ink. I only recall them from early gradeschool; after that they seem to have disappeared.

Shark said...

My teachers usually just emailed our assignments as a PDF to our Blackberries. No, I'm a little older than that... A little...

Cipriano said...

Beth, Jeane.
You know what I meane!

That was darn witty!
You little whippersnapper!

Merisi said...

Yes, I know the smell of that paper,
I didn't like it, though. Gave me a headache. I remember the copies being a faint lavender.

JoanneMarie Faust said...

Oh, the smell of dittos. I remember it well. In elementary school, half the class would be sniffing the pages as the teacher passed them out. By high school, we didn't have dittos anymore. It wasn't until college that I got to sniff them again. The Student Life Office had a mimeograph machines and we used it to make dittos of sorority meeting minutes and agendas. They smelled every bit as good then, too.