Allie Wallace - Senegal

January 3, 2013

I judge books by their covers. I’m not being euphemistic here, I just find that a book worth binding nicely and decorating with gold leaf and a ribbon bookmark is usually a book worth reading. You don’t see many books made like that anymore. But, surprisingly, these quality books pack the shelves of the little school library where I work. There’s “The Collected Works of Victor Hugo” and Alex Haley’s “Roots” and “Alice in Wonderland,” all bound in jewel tones and illustrated with beautiful prints. Only one problem: they’re the French editions. I can’t read a single one. I feel like a diabetic Willy Wonka; I can look, I can touch, I can share, but I can’t enjoy them myself. It’s a book-lover’s torture. And yet, no one here seems to share my appreciation of a good classic novel. In fact, the idea of reading for pleasure is all but unheard of. The name “Harry Potter” means nothing here. I pull a copy of “Amelie” from the shelf, recognizing the title from the film version. A wistful-looking waitress stares from the cover, carrying a tray of café au lait and brioche. I look wistfully back at her. I’ll never know which was better: the movie or the book.

Allie Wallace