Who knew. I love books. I read approximately a book a week and count myself deprived if I come up short on access to a book, even for a day. Much of the credit goes to the McCracken Public Library in Paducah, a place that doles out a burbling stream of titles for me to peruse and bring home for free. Well, sort of. Because truth be told they are also on the receiving end of frequent late fees owing to the fact that I never seem to be able to toe the line on the three-week limit. But I’m pleased to pay up since this library service, free of charge to those less time challenged, seems altogether too good to be true. What a world… anyone can walk into this lovely air-conditioned space, sign up for a card, and gain the right to take any book in the building home to read. No charge.
The library is my shrine. Because of the books that are there and because of the abject liberty of their access. But also because its a community place where the congregation gathers around ideas. We can’t do without this resource. It offers sustenance for the culturally deprived brain. For free. Its a place where we borrow and return. It has internet. It has a quiet room. It has air conditioning.
We live in a different time now as someone told me. Yes, I noticed. Snippet time frame. Get it now and keep it short. Tweet or die. Attention deficit disorder as the new social norm. I’ve got to be honest with you.. I’ll take the long form any day. A place where a few choice sentences string together enjoyably enough to make entertaining paragraphs, culminating in well rounded chapters that actually go somewhere. Even quite possibly adding up to a book that actually means something.
And oh, a book! Excuse me Kindle and pardon my Ipad (I’ll certainly be getting around to owning you later…) but to hold a book in your hands and turn the pages. Ah… here is tactile sensuality. The cover art. The weight. Subtle pleasures. As in… gauging the portent of a new book from the way it feels. The inside cover giving you the teaser. The typeface do-or-die; right size, right feel, balanced against potential reward on the content. The first read on the opening paragraph. How does it “read”?
Then there’s the assessment of a book after its finished. I’ve had the experience with certain books of valuing their content so dearly that just holding them after finishing the last page provided me with a sensation that must be similar to what a medieval mystic would feel holding an icon of the faith. I’ve held books that hummed.
But now (as mentioned earlier) we live at a time where books are being called out. The paperless future beckons and the Kindle calls. As printed matter diminishes and electronic type ascends we will soon be at the point (are we there yet?) where the printed artifact becomes truly precious. Then we will revisit the days before mass produced editions. Strangely, this future may be much like days before the Gutenberg press, when hand-copied books were rare and incredibly valuable. In the not too distant future we may have a book in our hands that will be really worth something. If the book is any good, that is.