I have a Kindle tablet. It's handy, good for looking things up, checking social media, an occasional game or two or a surf around the innerwebs for a good read from a fellow writer. And one can download books from the library and read them. I have given this a try here in the last several months. Initially, I just didn’t like it because, well, I didn't want to. After some time, though, I began to see the general attraction. I liked getting novels and philosophy books quickly. The search interface was simple and limited in a good way - less choices and all - and, for a while I felt clever and hip reading Tim O'Brien's visceral Vietnam memoir "The Things They Carried" in such a post-modern way. I read some poetry, which translated well I thought to the blank page the reader could be.
One should be able to hug "To Kill A Mockingbird," drop a tear on the last page of Owen Meany, to close up Narnia in victory as The Last Battle is won. One should have something to desperately clutch as you gasp in horror at Wilfred Owen's "Dulce et Decorum Est" or to caress as you read the words of Dickinsin and Frost. A machine cannot offer such physical assurances nor will it ever make you smile as the cover of Animal Farm or Catcher in the Rye at the used book store - last Tuesday I think it was - makes you remember high school in just one breath.
So, the books pile up and wait. Here is a stack my brother sent me, books I'd read as a child, sitting on my work/music, uh, bench, waiting to be found:
"Churchmouse Stories" is unforgettable, so sweet and naive, and, two books down, "The Battle of Gettysburg," showed me the despair and suffering of war and led to Lincoln and Whitman and Woody and Dylan and Homer. That book, that thing.
This is the shelf next to my desk, a few favorites, odds and ends, Shakespeare, Narnia, Sherlock, "The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart," a signed Owen Meany, Oz. And a dulcimer...
Down there on the bottom two shelves are a set of Harvard Classics, fifty books of importance as decided in 1920. There is a long and satisfying story to tell about them, but, I haven't time right now and it may go untold. The milk grate is full of the memories I have already shared here - "the keeper box."
Yes, those are guard-Furbees, motion sensitive and irritable. It's perfect, isn't it?
One last pile comes to mind. Ever-present, right there in front of the television, with delicious irony, a pile of the boys library books waits to be read, returned or traded for a new series, a new place - a new thing - to be remembered:
We have littered the boys childhood with books, piled thick and scattered randomly or purposefully, and we will continue to do so and hopefully they will never be far from a stack of books, a pile of dreams.
Truly, would this image seem as nearly as tender if we were all staring a Kindle?
Or this one as iconic?
I don't come to bury the tablet readers or suggest their unworthiness as a replacement for our books (actually, I do), but merely to remind you, us, of those books that, so long ago, sprang from our hands and into our memories.
Something a kid said to Marci:
"Mom, you could be a saint ... I'd vote for you."
It's true, I think you vote once a day, forever...
I might, or more likely not, follow this up with a few other technologies I see not serving us, especially these beautiful boys, as well as their antecedent. For now, though, thanks for coming around.