Sunday, February 9, 2014

when media collide

This new year I set a goal of reading at least six books in hard copy in addition to the uncounted ones I read on my beloved Kindle. After hearing so many people say they prefer to hold real books in their hands, I'd decided that I shouldn't lose touch with the world of print. (Pun not intended but appropriate, and so I must give thanks for its gratuitous descent from the ether!)

My decision was probably also motivated by a woman in my on-line goal-setting group. She was proud to have read a certain set number of books in 2013, in various formats including audio-books, and had upped her 2014 goal to 30 books.

At the turn of the year, I was reading a hard copy of Ray Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You. I had checked it out of the library because it was recommended at Brain Pickings, a favorite blog that makes a 'public library' link for every book it discusses. Often, I'll follow these links and be able to check out a library book in Kindle format, but in this case there was none. Therefore, I used the Internet to request that the book be delivered to my local branch and held there for me -- a lovely process bringing together old and new technologies in a totally efficient way.

I regret to say that I didn't enjoy Bradbury's book as much as I'd expected. It seemed a bit dated (all those references to using the typewriter!) but it did make me feel somewhat righteous to read about writing and make progress toward a stated goal.

My next hard-copy experience was an unauthorized biography of a celebrity. I had picked the book up from the 'free' shelf at the public library after a knitting group meeting there. Though published in 1999, it didn't seem to have been read, and the dust jacket was pristine. Obviously, someone had donated it to the library, which opted not to catalog it. I checked L.A. Public Library's on-line catalog and found that they had six copies distributed throughout their 102 locations. More than enough for a book that was not only sleazy but also poorly written.

So, here I was in the middle of January, one third of the way through my goal of six hard copy books, and not that pleased with my achievement. Furthermore, there was no hint of the tactile gratification I had expected.

Then on January 30, Brain Pickings posted Herman Melville’s Daily Routine and Thoughts on the Writing Life. Just in time, I thought, to get the stale taste of Bradbury out of my mouth! I quickly followed the 'public library' link to "the wonderful 1954 volume Reader and Writer -- a collection of notable meditations on the osmotic arts of reading and writing . . . featuring contributions from such literary titans as Sherwood Anderson, Ernest Hemingway, Francis Bacon, and Henry David Thoreau." Alas! LAPL did not have a copy, nor did any library less than 15 miles away, but Amazon offered a used copy for $6.90 and I snapped it up.

On February 4, Reader and Writer arrived in the mail, and as soon as I unpacked it I was magically transported back to 1959 -- my freshman year in college. This book had the heft and gravitas of The Harbrace College Handbook and so many other textbooks. Indeed, it was a textbook, a fact not mentioned on Brain Pickings but nevertheless welcome, for here at last was the tactile gratification I'd expected to find in hard-copy books.

I do not expect to read all of Reader and Writer, and hence it will not count toward my goal of six hard-copy books, but I do intend to dip into it from time to time, and so will Steve. So far, I've read Edith Wharton's delightful account of Henry James' asking for directions in the English countryside, a piece as silly as a Monty Python sketch, and Robert Benchley's irreverent reminiscence of his college days.

Now here's where the media collide (just in case you were wondering about the title of this post). On February 3 I had ordered a new, improved Kindle and, given the complexities of Amazon's delivery systems, it arrived via UPS a couple of hours after Reader and Writer came in the mail. The Complete Works of Anthony Trollope emerged from 'the cloud,' seemingly untouched by human hands, and I wandered back into Barsetshire.

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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License