Lucky me, something woke me at the crack of dawn (quite literally, for there is a thin line of raspberry colored sky drawn across the horizon). Seriously, I do feel fortunate to be awake so early, especially on Sunday, when the weather has been promised to be glorious and the entire day stretches before me to be enjoyed.
So I gathered my coffee and finished the last few pages of I Capture the Castle, an absolute delight of a novel by Dodie Smith. How did I ever miss reading this gem? First published in 1948, I presume it was out of print, at least here in the States, for this is a book I would have devoured as young girl. It’s narrator, Cassandra Mortmain, a lively seventeen year old living in “genteel poverty” with her very eccentric family, relates the story of one pivotal year in her life, a year when she discovers some very important things about life and love and family relationships. Another one of those stories I was loathe to see coming to an end.
I snagged my copy of I Capture the Castle during a trip to Bargain Books a few weeks ago, and I’ve now taken up another book harvested from that trip. Jane Kenyon, A Literary Life, is just the type of literary biography I most enjoy, a book that aims to “provide a clear and accurate account of the life” of this poet, and then “examine how her art grew out of that story.” I’m quite fond of Kenyon’s work, the way her poetry exalts and enlightens the ordinary, and invites the reader to examine familiar events and emotions in new ways. Because she grew up in Ann Arbor, (about 25 miles from me) I feel an even closer affinity to her life. John H. Timmerman, the author of this small, scholarly opus, is a professor at Calvin College (also in Michigan). His writing style is very accessible, and not the least pedantic. Although I’ve barely begun this book, I think it will be one I will refer to again.
Last evening, whilst meandering around in cyberspace, I noted several discussions based upon recent pieces in the New York Times predicting the demise of book publishing as we know it. In fact, Paul Krugman wrote in his Op-Ed piece that “we may finally have reached the point at which e-books are about to become a widely used alternative to paper and ink.” Like digitized music, Krugman opines, reading e-books will become the “common, if not ususal way we read.”
Within minutes of reading this, I came upon an interesting tidbit which seems to bear out Krugman’s opinion. Alexander McCall Smith, who pens several delightful series, ( my favorite is the Sunday Philosophy Club, starring Isabel Dalhousie), is serializing his latest novel, Corduroy Manions, entirely on line, where you may read it in installments, listen to it (as read by British actor), or subscribe to the podcasts and have the latest episode delivered directly to your i-pod or telephone.
It seems odd to discuss the demise of book publishing when I’ve just spent a hefty chunk of time perusing blogs of numerous people who spend even heftier chunks of their own time writing about books. Over the past decade or two the proliferation of large scale book stores (Barnes and Noble, Borders, and their on-line competitors, Amazon and Powells) would seem to suggest the reading public is growing, not diminishing.
And yes, I download nearly all the music I purchase these days. It never occurs to me to buy an actual CD – why should I, when I can press a button and instantly get exactly the songs I want on my computer, then transfer them to my i-pod, and burn my own CD to play in the car if I like, all for one low purchase price?
However, I was never in the habit of holding a CD’s jewel case in my hands while listening to the music, never enjoyed it’s particular aroma, or the glossy slickness of it’s pages, never admired my collection lined up on shelves. Books are a tactile experience as well as an intellectual one. For me, at least, a collection of words on a screen can never replace that, and it frightens me more than a little to consider the possibility of that happening on a large scale. After all, the printed word has been an important part of society for centuries…I should think it would take at least that long to dispense with it.
I probably won’t read Mr. Smith’s latest on line, because I have a very small tolerance for on-screen reading. As a matter of fact, if you’ve read this far into my post, you’ve probably read more than I would care to in one sitting. I might listen to the podcasts while I’m driving or walking, because I do enjoy the sound of someone talking in my ear (especially if it’s in a proper British accent).
And I do hope I’ll still be able to buy books – the real paper and ink kind – for the remainder of my lifetime. I have plenty of CD’s I can clear off my shelves to make room for them.
Now tell me, how do you feel about electronic reading? Do you think it will ever replace “real books”?