Books -- reading one, holding one

Posted 08.13.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | An editorial I wrote several weeks ago, citing reasons in favour of collecting books in our digital age, received as much reader response as anything I've written this year, to my great surprise. And appreciation. It's very encouraging to know there are still many people who value books.

How about the value, not of collecting books, but of holding them? Holding -- one book? It is true that my laptop and iPad can give me almost anything I'd like to read, and even suggest related material, all in a wealth no single person's collection could match. And almost instantly. These are very positive benefits, unmatched in history.

However, after working on a computer much of the day, it is not relaxing to come home and power-up. Enough can be too much!

To relax and pursue my personal interests, I pick up a small paperback, say one from the City Lights Poets series, not much bigger than my hand. I open at my bookmark, smile at the silence and speed of this procedure, and I read a few pages.

They are wonderful! What a writer! The book, by the way, is 'Paroles' by Jacques Prévert, bilingual edition. But I soon feel too stiff sitting at the table so I stand up and stretch -- book open at my place in my hand. I try an easy chair, but it's too soft, so I stand and walk over to the window, still with the book in hand. There's a big moon just coming from behind the leaves of our backyard maples. I watch the moon, sailing against the clouds -- still holding my book, not much bigger than my hand. The moon, sailing -- the book open -- the moon open...

Paperbacks are soft, flexible, easy to hold. I dog-ear the memorable pages.

After a while I lean against the kitchen counter reading in the light. Standing is more comfortable. The house is quiet, our street still. No sound diverts me from the content of these pages, no blinking lights or pop-up ads. One page, a second, one after the other, each with a melody of its own, these words on these pages, a melody that could easily be drowned out. Ah, Pr&eacvute;vert's dance-like writing...

If I was reading instructions to assemble a chair or fix a marriage, a digital platform would work. It delivers the basics. But I'm glad there's a choice -- choices for differing times, places, and especially for different sorts of reading. This choice is valuable.

But it's getting late and there's work tomorrow -- all on a screen. I do need the opposite to face tomorrow's editing tasks. But some moments of our lives should be accorded a special flavour or status, a holiness, moments which deserve silence to be appreciated and not become lost in the rush. I think this is more likely to arrive while holding a book.


Copyright © 2014 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/08.14