Friday, December 01, 2006

Making my day

I just read that a fella's grandmother forwarded him the link to Seen Reading. I can't begin to explain the chest swell it gave me. My grandmother (the 81 year old from a recent post) would have done the same thing. A few years before she died, she was asked to be a part of a university study. The participants were to think of a story from their life, think of one person they'd like to share it with, and then write the story to that person. A year later, she presented me with a book. I didn't know the stories were to be printed and bound. I opened it to the marked page and there it was, a dedication to me, a forever gesture, from me to you. That's the power of publishing. When we see people reading in the subway, on a park bench, in a restaurant, waiting at the doctor's office, it's not like television or film, largely, almost solely, located in the here and now. It's unlike theatre where each and every moment is a slightly altered version of the last performance, each performer a slightly altered version of him/herself. You don't even need a reader. Just, for a second, imagine a book sitting on top of a newspaper box. It could be fifty years old, passed through dozens of hands. That's the astounding nature of publishing. We're in the business of building forever words and forever gestures.


Rob said...

I've long viewed our propensity to write as the thin-veil that separates us from the animal kingdom or our givenness if you will. Nothing else so uniquely enables us to transmogrify the superfluous nature of all that otherwise lies outside the immediate range of our senses and inherited knowledge into a hand-hold on the ladder of human consciousness, imagination and boundless growth potential. It imbues us with a sense of permanent significance and hope that is so important for a race of such complex and fragile creatures. But I think it also belies our internal struggle against our fleeting tangibility and impermanence. The reams of pulp will inevitably wither, fade, burn and be discarded; as will we all in our due course and I pay hommage to that beautiful nature of our existence with every breath.

Julie Wilson said...

The reams of pulp will inevitably wither, fade, burn and be discarded; as will we all in our due course and I pay hommage to that beautiful nature of our existence with every breath.

This makes me think of the e-book. When I read, I want to tap into that tension you're speaking of. The e-book, to my mind, is simply a carrying device, worse, another opportunity for us to tuck away all this knowledge into spaces where we forget it resides, to access only when and if we think we're reading for it. (As if we know what's best for us from moment to moment.) Yesterday a woman actually bumped into me on the sidewalk she was so engrossed in what she was reading. I got to see it, cover, page, rumpled corners, the bus transfer she used as a page marker. The relationship to her text was as much my experience as heres. They're little mobile billboards. We might check out a label on your jeans or jacket, but nothing else quite grabs my desire for a hand-hold on consciousness like a book and its partner-in-crime, the reader.

shannon said...

I couldn't agree more. The e-book can't compare to a real book. Where's the lovely smell? The feel of fibres between your fingers? The wonderfully soothing sensation from holding a book in your hands?

And why do people think it's such a great idea to publish stuff on the net? I hardly ever used the internet until I discovered blogs (late bloomer), but even so, reading stuff off a computer screen makes my eyes hurt, strains my back as I slip into a very poor posture, and uses wanton amounts of electricity (not to mention the inherent unrecylcable nature of computers, which are toxic - it's not really going to save any trees to switch).

Can you curl up with a computer on the couch on a rainy day with a cat in your lap? Can you cradle it in your hands in the crush on the streetcar? Ha!

Personally, I never check people's clothing labels. Couldn't care less. But I will absoutely peek at what someone's so engrossed in that they just missed their stop!

M. John said...

"We're in the business of building forever words and forever gestures."

That's very neatly put.

Julie Wilson said...

Shannon, I agree completely. Funny though, it might make a difference with something like poetry. I never thought I'd read it on a subway next to an ad for erectile dsyfunction, but there we go! Perhaps those words can occupy the space of a smaller screen, maybe even use the screen more inventively, in a way that lengthier prose can't.

Perhaps it will come down to how many people will or won't pay $25-35 for a book versus who will or won't pay $250 and up for an e-reader. Thing is, when I carry a book, anywhere, it doesn't cross my mind that someone would wrestle me for it. A nice bit of new technology though? I don't want such a private and pleasurable experience such as reading to become a status symbol. Just give me a ratty, tatty book!

Julie Wilson said...

Thanks M. John. :)