Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bookworms or bugs?

I don’t think I’ll ever really be able to deal with an e-reader.  I mean, I certainly love the idea of them – the convenience, the portability, and the streamlined look and feel.   I watch people reading them on the trains and they always look so secure; effortlessly holding onto the pole with one hand, and their e-reader in the other.  That sort of balancing act isn’t always so easy with real books. 

E-readers won’t cut it for me because as far as I am concerned, books aren’t just about content.  And my enjoyment of books just doesn’t just come from the words on the page. 

I love the weight of a book in my hands.  It is the bulk of someone’s hard work, imagination and creativity.  I love turning crisp pages, or even well-worn ones (sometimes especially those).  I like the way old books smell.  Old things don’t always smell so good.  I enjoy reading random phrases – or entire paragraphs – that people have underlined.  Or notes they have made in the margins.  I love reading back over the notes I’ve made in margins.  I don’t care that some books make my handbag bulge or force me to cradle the book in my arms, just so I can bring it along with me.  I will often forsake trashy magazines at the hair salon, just so I can squeeze a few more chapters in.  A chapter or two read at night will be just the thing to relax my brain after a long day.  To my mind, the book is always better than the movie.  But I also love it when the book and the movie are nothing alike, but you only know that for sure if you’ve actually read the book first.  Sigh, bliss.

Always a fan of a bookshop or fair, I was totally hooked when I spent about 90 minutes getting lost in Strand Bookstore in the East Village.  Home to 18 miles of books, the store is jam-packed with new and used, popular, rare and even out-of-print works.  I wandered in with no idea what I was looking for and as I started to browse the shelves, my attention was drawn to the leather-bound classics at the very back of the store.  As I thumbed the creaking spines, so many familiar titles leapt out at me.  Well-known authors, like old friends, stared back at me.  Austen, Dante, Chaucer, and Shakespeare – they were all there.  In the end I settled on a leather-bound but second-hand copy of the American classic, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”.  Eight chapters in, and I’m convinced the book should have come with its own pack of Kleenex.  And I know how this book ends too, so it’s only going to get worse.  Not a book to read in public, unless you don’t mind public displays of snivelling and random outrage.

Then of course I find out today that people are being cautioned about buying second-hand goods because of bedbugs!  Can you believe it?  That never occurred to me.  I thought the biggest problem you had with second-hand stuff was dust.  Is this bedbug thing just an urban legend?  I think if Strand had infected me, I’d be itching and scratching already but so far, so good. 

And besides, if bedbugs are going to live in second-hand things that I buy, perhaps instead of complaining about it, I should just appreciate their excellent taste?

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