Thursday, December 17, 2009

#351












#351, Brooklyn


Y'all thought I was kidding when I said I was going to start ransacking the dictionary to help me through the last two weeks of this project. And I was, until I realized that ransacking the dictionary actually sounded like a lot of fun.

Remember dictionaries? Those handy desktop reference books you'd flip through, the pages fanning, your eye casting about for the right page (hangar/ harangue; Scrooge/ seafood; sundae/ superconductivity)? They're practically already relics, those clunky old informative things. Which is one reason to love them even more. It's not until you're faced with the prospect of losing something that you begin to contemplate all the things there are to love about it. Have I ever paid attention to, say, the typeface of numbers in these dinosaurs of the reference world? Not much, because I've been too busy looking at buildings. But 351 seemed as good a time as any to look more closely at these tiny creatures. Also, I just dig the pointy serifs.

Strolling through the Barnes & Noble on Court Street today, killing an hour while I waited for the copy shop to fire off another copy of my manuscript, I happened to notice a gigantic booth devoted entirely to the Nook, the new electronic reader on the market. From what I can tell, it's like the Kindle only easier to make jokes about. (I realize that the term "nookie run" I remember from my college days has since been usurped by "booty call," but the memory is enough to make me freshly cringe.) But whoa -- books on screens! The death of print! The future is here! O dear, I thought to myself. One more piece of hyped technology to make me shake my Luddite's fist in the air like I just don't care.

There's enough going on in the pinball machine of my head right now to concern myself too much with the debate of print vs. electronic media, of book vs. Nook. But then I'm a weird blend. As soon as I'm done typing this, I'm just as apt to go Photoshop some architecture photographs as I am to go glue more stuff to this Kafka-themed altered book I've been working on for months, cutting pages out with a sharp X-acto blade and filling in secret compartments made from matchbooks. Context dictates most of my choices. If I'm in the mood to fire something off fast or get a bit of brain candy, I'll head over to something with a screen and type or click on it. Usually, though, I prefer to curl up with something made of paper.

As someone who has an intense love of books -- good, old-fashioned physical object books with real pages you can turn and covers you can get coffee stains on and everything -- I am not looking to be converted by the e-book movement. I worked for several years at the Northwestern University library as a book conservationist and believe that books -- as physical objects -- must live on in ways that their authors can't. Simply holding a brand new trade paperback in my hands makes me feel warm and tingly. I don't care how many people I could reach by posting excerpts of my novel online. I want a book, damn it, and I will get a book.

All the more reason, it would seem, to see what trouble I can get up to with this medium -- Ye Olde Blogge -- in the upcoming year. I don't see this "death of print" palaver as a threat. I see it as a challenge to be more crafty, more hare-brained, more beautifully obsessive about the things I love. Yes, I'll stand with Charlton Heston-esque stubbornness and say that they'll pry my trade paperbacks from my cold, dead hands. But that's no reason to be throwing away the blog with the bath water.

gen . er . ate v. -at . ed, -at . ing. To bring into being; produce.

10 comments:

designslinger.com said...

What do you do when you move from LA to Chicago and the moving company tells you how much money you'd save if you didn't ship well over a thousand pounds of books?
You pay.

Patrick said...

I'm a fan of both print media AND digital readers. For the myriad titles I read but feel no need to own: digital. For all those gems I simply must have on a shelf, print. It's all about compromise.

Therese Cox said...

Designslinger - That's why I don't move. Though I, too, would fork it over if I needed to. Can't do without my books.

Patrick - Have you used any of the new digital readers? I saw a girl on line at the Dunkin' Donuts with a Kindle this morning. I definitely was sneaking glances.

Jackie said...

Those electronic readers make me so very, very upset. I always have to change the conversation when someone I know starts to talk about one. Never talk about: Politics, Religion, or Kindles at the dinner table.

Therese Cox said...

Zero interest in getting one myself. Just fascinated, albeit in a sort of gruesome way, by the spectacle of them.

Uh... So how 'bout this weather we're having?

Pierre said...

I can't remember the last time I used palaver in a sentence. I don't think I ever have. You constantly callenge me to increase my vocabulary. Thanks.

Therese Cox said...

Yeah, and way more fun than those S.A.T. classes. The only word I ever remember from those is "torpor." (A great word, by the way.)

Ray Gunn said...

Great post, Tea!

I've actually taken to reading some things electronically. The more transient titles, things that can be enjoyed and fogotten, things I know won't be worth a second read. My iPhone has an app for that. No, seriously.

But give me a 6 1/8 x 9 1/4 dead-tree capsule anytime. Real books rule.

ingslat: UK slang that is misused/misunderstood by American English speakers; also American slang that is misused/misunderstood by British English speakers

Therese Cox said...

Ray - exactly. Long live the dead-tree capsules!

Julie said...

Yeah to the punching of luddite hands!

You forgot the sniffing ...

Same goes for maps and GPS devices. I would prefer to take a guess and turn corners ...