When I was a kid, I used to tear out the pages of books as I finished reading each page. Read the page, look at the picture, then tear that sucker out.
Sadly, we barely owned any children's books, so destroying the few that we did own had a devastating effect on my younger brothers and sisters.
I distinctly remember the cover of Syd Hoff’s I Can Read book Walpole floating around our house long after the pages had been ripped out and destroyed. There were other covers, many others, floating around my bedroom and playroom, waiting to be thrown away, but that Walpole cover seemed to last longer than the rest.
Must have been nice to have me as an older brother, huh?
I’m not sure how this odd and destructive habit began, but I have a couple theories.
It may have a response to the lack of paper in our home. Though my siblings and I loved to draw and write, my parents rarely supplied us with the paper needed to satisfy our cravings. Therefore, whenever we received a book as a gift, the first thing we did was to tear the one or two blank pages in the front and back of the book to use for drawing. I would do the same with libraries books from school, sometimes going through dozens of books at a time in order to acquire paper. Perhaps the habit of destroying the entire book as it was read blossomed from this need to tear the precious blank pages from these books in order to draw my dinosaurs and army tanks.
But I prefer to think that this odd habit was the beginning of my minimalist tendencies. I have spent much of my life trying to rid myself of things. Less has always been more for me. I take great joy is throwing out unwanted items and dodging the accumulation of unneeded stuff. Parents of my students routinely ask me why I have the largest classroom in the school, and I am forced to point out that all the classrooms are the same size. Mine is just emptier than most.
Either way, I like to think that the destruction of these children’s books was also decidedly pro-author and perhaps an unconscious expression of my affinity to the craft. By preventing my parents from handing the books down to aunts and uncles and friends with small children, I like to think that I was contributing to a slight uptick in sales for these authors, since these books would need to be repurchased rather than lent out.
Even as a six-year old, I was reaching out to my fellow authors in repeated acts of economic solidarity.