April 25, 2017
WHEN YOU PRY IT FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS …
I try not to dwell in the past – even though I sometimes find it very tempting to do so. One of the hardest things about life, especially in the 21st Century, is to accept change and to accept that the world in which I grew up is forever gone and has morphed into something quite different and often more hostile. I try to adjust, to keep up with the times, to stay true to what is important to me, to let go of the old and accept the world as it is today.
But there is one change with which I have a big problem. Books. More specifically – giving up books. Books written on paper with words printed in ink. Books that smell of the library, books with my fingerprints on the pages, books with corners turned down to mark my place. Stand-alone books that I can hold in my hand and carry around. Books, each dedicated to one subject, whether it’s a crime novel, a history, a political treatise, or a collection of chili recipes.
They clutter my book shelves, and when the shelves are full, they lay atop other books, spilling onto the floor and crowd together stacked on desks and file cabinets. They surround me like old friends – many with completely different views of the world – but each making its contribution to who I am and who I will become.
My wife has taken the easier way out. She has a Kindle, an electronic reading machine, she can carry with her. It has almost 150 books on it, most of them read, some standing by to be read. When she wants a new book, she goes to Kindle’s electronic store, orders it, and within a few seconds it is downloaded to her device and her credit card is billed. She can be stranded in Hicksville, West Virginia, and with a few strokes of the keys have the literature of the world at her fingertips.
But Carmela’s Kindle doesn’t smell like a book. It doesn’t feel like a book. It’s just an electronic anthology of all books. It’s an impersonal, almost hostile device composed of plastic and silicon and absolutely devoid of any personality.
I tried the electronic books when they first came out and I was tempted. You could look up definitions of words that you were not sure about, and if you came across a character from earlier in the book that you no longer remembered, you could search his name and find the first reference to him. And most of all, it was cheap.
But now e-books are almost as expensive as regular books, and given the choice, I choose traditional paper, ink, and glue. A book is real. It has weight to it. If you drop it on your toe, it hurts. When you first get it, it’s new and fresh and crisp. After a while, it becomes softer, friendlier and faded. Each one is unique. The typeface is as different as the subject matter.
I’m keeping my books. I know that when they pry them from my cold dead hands, they will simply throw them in the trash, to be carted away and buried in some landfill. That’s OK with me.
I won’t need them anymore.
– George Lee Cunningham
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