I’m no Luddite, but I adapt to technology slowly. I’m not living in the woods in a yurt and eating brown rice, but I am not ahead of the curve. I’m not cutting-edge. (Have I got my clichés right?) I was not the first boy on my block to get a CD player. Or a cellphone. Or a DVD player. Or a computer.
So I think it will be a while before I buy a Kindle or any kind of e-book reader. I see people peering at these tablets on planes and trains a lot now. I hope they are happy. The devices give off an eerie glow. I understand they are practical. Rather than carry the entire works of Clive Cussler with you, it is possible to download them to your Kindle. It also neatly avoids the embarrassment of having someone peg you for a Clive Cussler reader. They may think you are reading Italo Calvino.
It is January, the bleak midwinter, the old year now away hath fled and the new year it is entered. Right? Now is the season of New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps you are thinking about Zumba? Pilates? Thinner thighs in 30 days? Buying a membership in a health club? The last cigarette? A farewell to John Barleycorn?
Maybe you are thinking about a Kindle?
I don’t need to make New Year’s resolutions. I’m married. My wife makes them for me. Actually, she makes them year-round. We don’t wait for the ball to drop. We don’t need “Auld Lang Syne.” No, siree. I am bombarded with resolutions all the time. “Forsake carbohydrates!” “Be a better person.” “Dress better.” Then there’s my posture. Posture? Resolutions have me thinking about the Kindle.
My wife is not ready for a Kindle either but if you told her that it would mean fewer books in our house she would buy one today. She wants me to get rid of books.
The largest room in our house is my office— it was actually two rooms and I took a wall down— and there are floor to ceiling books in there. I know every one of those books. I have books from when I was in high school. Books that were read to me when I was very young— A.A. Milne’s “Winnie-the-Pooh.” I have first editions. With dust jackets! I have Robert Louis Stevenson’s “A Child’s Garden of Verses” somewhere on that wall. And Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
I have Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” and Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.” The complete works of Mark Twain, Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare— very old editions. A paperback copy of Twain’s “Life on the Mississippi” that I bought in 1966 for 50 cents. New! I have the works of Lawrence Durrell in French, a language that I can barely read despite nine years in a convent school run by nuns from Trois-Rivières, P.Q. A girl who I was mad about gave it to me. She met Durrell in a bar in the south of France and told him I was a fan. The girl is long gone. So is Durrell and so is my French. The book stays in the picture.
Small children have imaginary friends. I have my books. People ask me what I am reading. I am reading James Baldwin. He gets better and better. I am reading Yeats. I am reading Graham Greene. Hugh Kenner’s essays. Charles Bukowski. I bought a copy of Somerset Maugham’s collected short stories the other day to read on a long plane ride. My wife flipped when she saw yet another book in my hand.
Kindle and e-books may be the future, but what kind of future would I have without my boon companions Eeyore and Christopher Robin and Kim and Long John Silver and Squire Trelawney? I still believe we ought to meet them in books, with actual pages.
I love used book stores. I was first through the door at the annual Smith College Book Sale for many years, although I am now under court order to stay away— my wife has forbidden me to go near the place. I have to sneak around on her and buy books online. I love abebooks.com. It’s like Internet poker. I have an account set up and with the click of a mouse I get a book. You can’t have enough of them. This upsets my wife a great deal. She believes that you can have enough books, and that I am a man who does. If she came home and found me in the arms of a comely maiden she would not be more upset than to find another box of books in our kitchen.
Will I one day haul all of those books down three flights of stairs and take them to The Book Thing? Will I give in to the New Year’s resolution forced upon me? Am I headed to Broadmead or Blakehurst or Brightwood with a Kindle?
Don’t make book on it.