Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Reasonable Faith

If all the bookstores go away, where will we go? Where will I go? When time stretches out and it's okay to look at book covers, niche magazines - reading stand alone chapters somehow comfortable on the floor or in an obscene chair, sometimes on a wooden chair, text juxtaposed with a latte that's almost too sweet. Almost. How else will finding a first edition, or specially highlighted copy, be memorable?

Like brides, mail order just doesn't cut it.

But there is a time and a place for a Kindle. (It's proven itself worthy as an e-reader.) Backpacking across a continent. When your arms are so pathetically weak, you don't want to hold up The Deathly Hallows. When you need one hand to breast feed. But they still make you turn off the not-really-electronic-electronic device on planes, leaving your hands idle for take-off and landing. Blech.

Dicks like to ask me what it's like to be an aspiring writer in a digital age. (The difference between curiosity of opinion and seeming satisfaction is tone.) What do you think? That it gives me great peace of mind to know that people are caring less and less about piracy and the beauty of a physical book, magazine, or journal. As we move toward the end of the world, I realize a huge chunk of the industry will never be enjoyed in hard form, the smell of that literature gone forever. All for a lighter backpack.

Annie gives Miley edge.
Annie Leibovitz takes the most beautiful pictures I've ever seen. (I can't pretend to think Ansel's landscapes are as interesting as Johnny Depp and Kate Moss together in bed, unedited a turquiose hair tie discarded on the hotel room carpet. Annie's lover facing cancer from a New York terrace. John Lennon the day he died. Her daughters. The White Stripes. All with so much interest that a shot earlier lay untapped.)

But as I sat for hours looking through and reading A Photographer's Life, a birthday gift, I knew there was no better way to enjoy these photos, even without the din of a museum and potential crowd. Not even an iPad can properly digitize the ulimate coffee table book. And is The Paris Reviw really as good on it? Is a blog post as good when it's printed out on scrap paper, robbed of it's glow and clickability? No way, jorge.

I heard a rumor that Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon, was closing. I didn't even start to smile or laugh (as I sometimes do at the first break of horrible news; I know, it's awful). But my friend and I quickly searched the Internet and breathed again when we didn't find any substantiating evidence. Powell's is where my dad and I have gone together and alone, something in common shared for hours.
It's from where my parents sent me pictures of my favorite authors doing readings while I was overseas. It's where the rare book room has a book worth a quarter million dollars. It's where there are entire sections devoted to Pulitzers or Japan or graphic novels or audio books. It's surrounded by vintage clothing stores, Jake's seafood, gilato, and the rest of Portland. It's an oasis for even the non-reader.
Courtesy of Isak
So I still have heart. Or at least reasonable faith that I'll only have small regrets in my old age (like seeing the pyramids and not climbing them - whoa! What?) and a slight worry for future generations of readers. There has to be others out there who lived for the daily classroom readings of Hatchet and thus have to own a copy they can make notes in. Who want the hard copy of IQ84. Who want unique versions of Jane Eyre, Harry Potter, Nancy Drew mysteries, The Hunger Games, and vampire chotsky dotting their bookcases, spilling onto the floor and other areas of the house, behind curtains.

Who want every book that changed their life.

Rolling Stone Annie wouldn't lose hope or give up. Austen, Franklin, even Meyer wouldn't. So neither will I.

Because when we do give up completely, things like lightbulbs, modern art, Oscars, Facebook, and the magic of flight, never happen. Lists of wonderful things just wouldn't exist.


thebluemuse said...

I don't want to live in a world without books and bookstores. :(

Aly Lawson said...

Hear, here. =)