I’ve written here before about Rob’s habit of bringing the newspapers with him to work. If he finds nothing particularly interesting in the pages, he will recycle them in the city. If, though, he sees a Yankees article for the girls or a literacy article for me, he will bring the paper back home for us to read. This weekend, his job was simpler as he just passed an article from the Wall Street Journal across the breakfast table.
The article titled “My 6, 128 Favorite Books” is an excerpt from Joe Queenan, One For the Books, to be published this week.
Two ideas presented in this article were intriguing to me.
One of the article’s first premises is that people read to escape a unfulfilling reality.
“If you have read 6,000 books in your lifetime, or even 600, it’s probably because at some level you find “reality” a bit of a disappointment.”
“No matter what they may tell themselves, book lovers do not read primarily to obtain information or to while away the time. They read to escape to a more exciting, more rewarding world. A world where they do not hate their jobs, their spouses, their governments, their lives.”
Goodness. If this is true, I am one unhappy girl. And I’m not. Am I occasionally unhappy? Certainly. But am I generally dissatisfied with my reality? No.
I believe that I read to escape, yes but also to empathize, enjoy, laugh, cry and just to be.
And then Queenan goes on to strongly express his opinion on e-readers.
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…
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 convey a perfect delivery system…
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.
And goodness again. I resisted the Kindle for a long time. I loved books after all. I felt for a time as Queenan does. Why mess with perfection? But then I started to realize that it wasn’t always the books I loved. In fact, I was coming to realize that our small house was being overrun with books. That often books I loved while I was reading them became books I hated when I was done for the clutter they were helping to grow. What I was in love with was the story. Exactly the piece that I celebrate above. The story that allows for the escape, for the empathy, for the laugher and the tears. That story lives in a Kindle just as fully as it does in a book.
So for now, I will agree to disagree with Queenan. I will continue to love my books on my Kindle for more than an escape from a reality that makes me pretty happy much of the time.