Throwing The Book At 'Em
A book is a wonderful thing to take to bed, to while away your time while waiting for a kid's activity, to take to an indulgent breakfast alone, even sometimes to a soak in the tub. These kids are almost devoid of these experiences. Volunteering to use books in any of those ways would not occur to them, and that's what makes me sad. They don't think of books as their forever companions. Now, we have always, always made it a point to read to them almost ad nauseam and they are required to read before bed every night. So they do know about reading in bed, but they don't go happily rushing into it without reminders. We have demonstrated the example all their lives. Somehow the deep cultivation has not set genuine roots.
And then there's the "argument" about electronic readers such as the Kindle. I am unanimously overruled by family on this subject. I do not want to use an electronic reader. Just because the technology happens to exist, must I be obliged to use it? I say a resounding "No!" I want the comforting aesthetic experience of creamy paper, deckle or gilded edges, leather or cloth covers and real dust jackets with author bios on them. More than often it's a paperback, but I don't care. I don't care if a book is heavy or if I have to shine a light on it. I don't want a book that shines at me in a nondescript neutral font. I want to examine colophons and end papers such as those in the Everyman's Library series ("Everyman, I will go with thee/& be thy guide/in thy most need to be by thy side"). I want to keep finding the endearing back pages that say something like, "This book is set in 12-point Monotone Bimbo, with chapter headings in Basketball Overextended, both faces designed by the legendary Adolf Pfupfl and characterized by noble, full-bodied proportions with complex, slightly fruity serifs."
Most important to me is the fact that I can riffle through the pages at will instead of having to scroll. My mind remembers pages in a photographic way; I can almost always remember whether a particular passage was verso or recto, and how far down the page it was. I love the visceral experience of flipping back and forth and always finding what I'm looking for. On a continuous scroll device, I won't find it, and will just want to throw the thing. (Trust me; I know I would!) If the device were able to project on the wall or ceiling and I were in the bath, it might have some merit. But otherwise, no.
Yes, books have a way of causing an irritating level of clutter. I admit to having them everywhere, and they require dusting or vacuuming, and they're always migrating from one case to another. I no sooner get them all organized where they fit than I have to go through them and try to reorganize. I'm always making wrenching decisions about which books I must purge in order to take on new ones. I always have one or two discard bags going. I have piles all over the place. Right now, on the end table, I'm delving late at night into: an ancient copy of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie; The Reshaping of Everyday Life 1790-1840; Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (a re-dip--read it when it first came out); an absolutely tattered two-generation paperback of Great Expectations; two volumes of excellent poetry by Kay Ryan; Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave; and the short-story collection Homeland by Barbara Kingsolver (another long-term re-dip).
I'm heartened when I see my book piles. Seeing them directly as physical objects, I feel as though I'm looking at friends. They are me in some way. As a kid, I used to climb trees with a book and sit up there all afternoon while spying on the neighborhood. Serendipity! In sixth or seventh grade I read The Hobbit in a tree. After that, most of Ian Fleming's James Bond series (you know, light summer reading). I don't want to take an expensive electronic reader up a tree or into the bathtub where an innocent fumble could electrocute me. If you drop a book from a tree, it will probably be just fine and won't explode or get a cracked screen. And you can dry out a book.
So flog me. I love books!