Saturday, 12 May 2012

To Bring or not to Bring

I have only been absent for the past few days because I have done little more than catch a cold and fill out grammar exercises. All this work for the future turns my thoughts toward it: I have a great many things to plan in preparation for my move in late July. I lack space to bring all my few but beloved possessions with me. As any international will tell you, the process of editing out the superfluous from one's life must be ruthless. We do not ask the question 'what do I want?' but 'what do I need?' But despite this, I still want to bring my books, flying them over oceans and continents, if only to line them up on a shelf and watch them gather dust. They are old friends, and there is something wonderfully weighty about the feel of a book in hand.

My friend Natalie is a like-minded book enthusiast, but has recently bought a Kindle out of sheer necessity. She finds it ever so hard to pursue her Academic Course when she must either lug tomes from the library to her home or be barred from the classic works by geography. (Some of her texts remain elusively tucked away in London.) Taking up the Kindle, however, has not been easy, and she describes her struggle so well.

 'When I went to read it, I was appalled. Which lines were continuous?'

 "It comes down to me being a snob. A filthy, self-righteous book snob. I get frustrated when I buy real books that are not up to scratch. My poetry must be set by the line, my medieval texts not translated, my penguin paperbacks published between 1958-64, my favorites in hardback editions. I don't think I would ever buy a classic on my kindle that I did not already own a copy of. There is something so painless, immediate, esoteric about the "whispernet" delivery service that these books don't seem real or permanent. I don't give a toss about an academic essay or a popular Terry Pratchett novel on my kindle. Those I can read and delete with no compunction. But it feels wrong to download pieces of literature that have been treasured, translated, studied, memorized, in a matter of 20 seconds, to delete it once finished, like it's ephemeral and fleeting, and doesn't have the potential to a change a life, fell a country, spark a revolution, demonstrate selflessness, enact a love story, refine one's personal views, and encounter worlds beyond one's own.

Perhaps it's just me and I'm kicking up a huge fuss about nothing. After all, the argument could go, it's still the author's words and that's all that matters, surely? We've evolved to transcend the printed text. I think it was Aristotle that made an argument about physical beauty leading to spiritual revelation.  The beauty of a woman (he says) can lead one to know and understand other beautiful things, slowly moving from physical beauty to more intangible concepts until you are suddenly encountering the divine. I find it easier to read and understand what the author says when it comes in gilded edges and a 1920s copyright.

The Kindle finds its place in my home when it comes to old works that are often out of print. While not my first choice, I need it to read the books I study. It's a necessary evil, a Catch-22. But I can't help but think Amazon and its competitors have paved paradise and managed to set up virtual parking lots, allowing ease, immediacy, and popular demand to dictate and immensely reduce the first-love encounter with literature to a word on a screen which disappears and blinks every time I "turn a page."

 -Excerpt from Kindle Resolutions and Revulsions, Natalie Jayne Moore

1 comment:

NJM said...

you are too generous