Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Beauty of the Book

Borders Bookstore chain is closing.  Over ten thousand people are losing their jobs, publishers are taking a huge hit as Borders fails to pay them money it owes, authors' print runs are shrinking (see a great NPR article here with the deets), but for me it's another sign of the death of the beauty of the book.

Reading will survive, of course. Books will continue to be written and read, perhaps even in greater numbers, as ebooks take over and almost all sales eventually shift to one electronic form or another.  That's the most important thing, I suppose.  (Well, the lives the Borders employees affected by this are probably the most important thing, really. But you see where I'm going.)

But I can remember going into Tower Records and holding my first Beatles LP in my hands. It sent a visceral thrill through me that downloading an mp3 on ITunes simply cannot duplicate.  The music was tangible, real, in my hands. The cover (it was Live at the Hollywood Bowl) had what looked like actual tickets to the concert on it.  I could imagine holding those tickets in my sweaty little hand as I joined my screams with the other girls at the concert.

Getting a page to print up with an electronic ticket in my email for concerts today does not generate that excitement.  Burning my own cds or watching files download from MySpace sites after I buy a file does not make my toes vibrate with love and passion the way holding this album cover did.

So it goes with books.  I still have some of my first books - the Oxford Book of Nursery Rhymes, Now We are Six by A.A. Milne.  I wrote in those books. I circled words I liked and tried to spell out my name on the inside cover. I can still see my four year old scrawl and my five year old comments in these books.  When I hold them now I remember with sudden swift vividness how it felt to recite "Bad King John" with my Dad as he held the book in front of me.

Kids can't circle words on their iPads today. Or if they do, the circles don't stay.  When they get older they won't see the wear and tear of the years on the "pages" of their Kindle editions, or remember how they smeared chocolate on the blank back pages of their Nook while they read House at Pooh Corner. 

And the smell of a new book!  The ivory gleam of pages ruffling through your fingers as you estimated how much further till Nancy Drew unraveled the Mystery of the Old Clock.  To enter a bookstore was to enter a cathedral of story.  To touch the spines of those books was to come into contact with a hundred new ideas, a thousand new adventures.  If you saw another kid eagerly reading a pink book with an octopus on the cover, you could hunt for that book yourself by spotting that distinctive shade of magenta on the shelf.  You can't do that by looking at the back of an iPad.

But Borders is closing.  And printed books are a dying breed.  A few afficionados will remain, and a few bookstores will live on by catering to collectors, the same way vinyl records still sell a few copies to those who want a multi-level experience when buying music.

This to me is a tragedy.  Reading will  live on, thank goodness.  But the visceral connection to the word will die.  Maybe it means more people will read books, and that is something to celebrate.  But I'm in mourning for the "real" book.  And for all those people who lost their jobs.

Updated to add: Just to be clear - I'm pro-ebook, pro-Kindle, Nook, e-reader, etc. Reading is fabulous, regardless of the means.  I just wish the rise of one method didn't have to mean the death of the other. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Maybe It Once Kissed A Pomegranate

Life has been a bit nutty lately in ways that I can't blog about because it all involves other people whose privacy I will not violate.

But I am sorry I haven't blogged much lately.  I feel like my writing is finally starting to go somewhere, then I don't have enough time, or sometimes, enough energy to blog/tweet/Facebook to share stuff with people and move forward on it.  Oh well.  Plenty of time ahead left for self marketing, right?  Sometimes you just have to deal with what's right in front of you.

Then a story like this one on Yahoo News catches my eye, and my imagination runs riot.  That's how it works for me. An archaeologist finds a tiny golden bell that once adorned someone's robe in a sewer in Old Jerusalem, and my imagination takes over.

Whose robe once tinkled with this bell?  A priest in a holy procession?  A wealthy woman on her way to see her lover?  Did the owner of this bell realize the moment when it was lost, when it fell from the robe and bounced into the sewer? Did Jewish rebels, using those sewers to flee Roman legions while their beloved city and temple were razed back in 70 AD sneak past where that golden bell lay in the muck?  Did a rat once mistake it for food down there?  The Bible describes priestly garments being adorned with such bells, hanging between decorative pomegranates. Does this bell remember the pomegranate it once kissed? If it could speak, could we hear the ancient sermons it listened to?

This is why I love archaeology and history.  It makes me think about the people of those times - about their losses and loves, their tragedies and transcendent moments.  It's been a rough week or year or decade for the world. Madmen take the lives of innocents, children starve while politicians create unnecessary roadblocks to progress, temperatures rise, polar bears can't swim far enough, self hatred leads to self destruction, illness strikes, and frightened people hurt others because they know no other way.

In the past this all happened too. They were people like us (okay, maybe with worse teeth and shorter lifespans), and their stories are now gone, except for hints like this little golden bell. It's left to us to imagine and remember.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Book I've Waited For

It's not often I go to the bookstore the day a book is released especially to get it. But I did it today for George R.R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons.  Ohohoho! You betcha.

I don't think I've done that since the previous book in this series, A Feast For Crows, came out. That was November 8, 2005.  I waited nearly six years for Dragons.  People asked me if I'd wait to buy it so I could get it when George R.R. Martin (the author) is in town at the end of the month, signing books.

Wait two more weeks?  Hell, no.  I might go see Martin at the signing, but no way I'm waiting till then to read his book.

People asked me if I'd wait to get it in paperback.

Wait MONTHS???  Eff that and eff you. You don't get it.

It's not very often I get all passionate and crazy about anything.  I did it more often as a teenager, of course.  But I was never the sort to stand in long lines for things or to get autographs or to collect stuff.

So when I stand in line, when I rush to buy, when I go the extra mile to get/read/watch/meet/listen to something or someone, you know I love it with every fiber of my little soul.

Which is why I didn't buy this on Kindle, despite its enormous size.  Reading a book this fat on a Kindle would be much easier on the hands and arms.  But some books you need to be able to touch, to pour over the maps, to sniff the paper and the glue and feel the embossing on the caver.  All that, plus the amazingly good writing, pull me completely into another world.

And this way I can lend it out when I'm done.  That's what I did with the earlier books in the series. And I converted a bunch of folks in the process. 

Don't get me wrong - read this on a Kindle or Nook or whatever you like.  I don't care.  I prefer the hard copy.  But if you like fantasy at all, just read it.  Well, read the first one Game of Thrones first.

And if that's not your cup of tea, then find something you love and run your hands over its embossing.  A little passion is good for the little soul.

Friday, July 08, 2011

I love movies. I love travel. In fact, I'm a total geek about such things.

Now there's an app called Augmented Reality Cinema that pleases the movie/travel geek in me very very much. I haven't downloaded it yet, but I shall! You need to see it to believe it, but it allows you to view clips from movies that had scenes shot right where you're standing.

Sheesh, in LA I could walk out my door and spend hours watching clips shot in my neighborhood, I bets ya.

A demonstration, below.

And yes, I now have a smartphone, my first. That in itself is a hint to you of the big things to come...

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Obscure Hints Galore

Verbal hint: my website will soon have a new look.

Obscure visual hint:

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Sort of a Hint

The mood in this one isn't quite right for it to be a true hint. But I just love the artist Michael Sowa.

Want to see more of his work?  Check out the video below:

His animals have such rich inner lives. Everything he does hints at a larger story. I can't even begin to pick a favorite.

Friday, July 01, 2011