Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Saturday WSJ: On Why We Need Books
During the week, my husband gets the Wall Street Journal delivered to his office. On Saturdays, it comes directly to our house.
I never have time to read all of it -- and honestly I probably don't have the attention span for all of it anyway. But I love skimming through the "Review" and "Off Duty" sections for a glimpse into the life I don't lead. Complicated recipes with ingredients I've never heard of, raincoats that cost thousands of dollars, high speed cars with no room for booster seats, and luxurious travels to faraway lands.
I also really love the writing in the Saturday WSJ -- seems there's always some article that makes me interrupt whatever my husband is doing to read a passage out loud to him. Sometimes it's a clever car review, a couple weeks ago it was a review of an Xbox360 game, occasionally it's about a trip maybe we could one day make together.
So I've decided I'll try to share a passage with you each week -- a snippet of a favorite something from that Saturday's paper. Think of it as a virtual clipping sent in the mail.
Here's this week's excerpt from "My 6,128 Favorite Books" by Joe Queenan (emphasis mine):
Books as physical objects matter to me, because they evoke the past. A Métro ticket falls out of a book I bought 40 years ago, and I am transported back to the Rue Saint-Jacques on Sept. 12, 1972, where I am waiting for someone named Annie LeCombe. A telephone message from a friend who died too young falls out of a book, and I find myself back in the Chateau Marmont on a balmy September day in 1995. A note I scribbled to myself in "Homage to Catalonia" in 1973 when I was in Granada reminds me to learn Spanish, which I have not yet done, and to go back to Granada.
None of this will work with a Kindle. People who need to possess the physical copy of a book, not merely an electronic version, believe that the objects themselves are sacred. Some people may find this attitude baffling, arguing that books are merely objects that take up space. This is true, but so are Prague and your kids and the Sistine Chapel. Think it through, bozos.
The world is changing, but I am not changing with it. There is no e-reader or Kindle in my future. My philosophy is simple: Certain things are perfect the way they are. The sky, the Pacific Ocean, procreation and the Goldberg Variations all fit this bill, and so do books. Books are sublimely visceral, emotionally evocative objects that constitute a perfect delivery system.
Electronic books are ideal for people who value the information contained in them, or who have vision problems, or who have clutter issues, or who don't want other people to see that they are reading books about parallel universes where nine-eyed sea serpents and blind marsupials join forces with deaf Valkyries to rescue high-strung albino virgins from the clutches of hermaphrodite centaurs, but they are useless for people engaged in an intense, lifelong love affair with books. Books that we can touch; books that we can smell; books that we can depend on. Books that make us believe, for however short a time, that we shall all live happily ever after.
—Adapted from "One for the Books" by Joe Queenan, to be published Thursday.