Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Will "the book" die?

(Note: This is an ongoing work in progress. I apologize for the inconvenience...) 
Will the book--the printed word-- die?

This question has been roiling in my head for a couple of weeks now. Because I am a school librarian, such a question would concern me. (Even if I weren't a librarian, I am concerned.)

Before I get to the topic at hand, here's the back story. You must know--and understand--that my principal is a science person--a hands-on, lab-based, former science teacher. She brought Science Olympiad to our school. In our second year of competition our team won second place in a competition hosted by a huge private school in Texas, a competition that brings in schools from many states. This year we won first. What she cannot do, she finds people to do. She has inspired our two science teachers to excel, to go beyond one's duty. One of those teachers is 69 (my point being that age is often irrelevant). I could go on and on about this principal who was hired five years ago to take on a run-down school with low teacher morale, with discipline problems that shouldn't exist in a Catholic school, and has made it into the place to be.

I think it is good that books still exist, but they do make me sleepy.
Frank Zappa

It's good to find a quote like the above to include in a blog about the death knell of books, don't you think? It's good that they (books) still exist--still, definition: "Verb, 1. stand still - remain in place; hold still; remain fixed or immobile." Is the concept of a book static, fixed? Does it "remain in place"? Ponder those words a minute.
There is no mistaking a real book when one meets it. It is like falling in love. 
 Christopher Morley (1890 - 1957)
If a book is "still," can it cause the reader to "fall in love"? Seems contradictory, now doesn't it? One holds a book in hand, one engages with the words, the symbols of thought from the author, the gift-giver. The reader soars, or dips, or dives, or paddles, or coasts, or laps, or zips, or roars. It's a swim. It's a flight. It's a trip of some kind. Ah, do you ever notice that very moment when your mind engages with the creative momentum of the author? It's really divine. I mean that literally.
How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book. 
Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862)
During the summer before I entered the eighth grade, I had read all the books in the children's section of my local library I planned to read: all the dog books, the fairy tales, the Poohs and Wonderlands, the horse books, the Nancy Drews. (I'm a Boomer. There were no lovely children's illustrated books as exist today.) I wandered to the adult section. No alarms sounded. No lights flashed. I was surprised. I found Gone With the Wind, my first adult novel. I practically read non-stop. Then I found Exodus, even more adult. This young woman, still a girl really, entered a new era of her life from those two books. What came next, odd, I don't remember, but Thoreau certainly had it right.
Which in some odd way takes me back to my principal. A couple of weeks ago she said to me that Kindle and other ebooks would take the place of libraries, that libraries were on their way out. Frankly, she said, she would be glad to see the end of physical books because they take up so much space after one reads them. She has boxed up all her books, she said, and stored them in the garage.
Was I indignant? Did I fire back with the irrefutable proof of the living and pulsing and vibrant concept of books, as well as their physical allotment of space? No, I didn't. I didn't defend books at all. I was, well, I was speechless. Could someone really say that books and libraries were dying? 

A room without books is like a body without a soul. 
Cicero (106 BC - 43 BC)
Wonder what my principal would say if she ever wandered through my house? There is at least one bookcase in every room, including hallways, laundry room, and bathroom. In the main rooms bookcases line the walls. I also have stacks of books everywhere. Yes, it's a big clutter of books, but I love having my friends all around me. I pretty much know where everything is and can locate a particular book fairly quickly. Box them up? Not a chance!
Properly, we should read for power. Man reading should be man intensely alive. The book should be a ball of light in one's hand. 
Ezra Pound (1885 - 1972)
I've been reading books by Ryszard Kapucsinski, a Polish journalist, who traveled the Third World reporting on the human condition via wars, transitions of power, military juntas, soccer games, Herodotus. The first ball of light he gave me was through his book,  Travels with Herodotus. The book was fabulous, literally and figuratively. Rather than summarize my thoughts on his book, here is the link to my review: Judy's review of Travels with Herodotus. The second illumination came from The Other, in which the journalist shows the reader, cogently, what it is like to be "the other," an unspoken term that blithely and--like a blight--coats our daily language--if only we were aware. I also reviewed it: My review 

Although I remain very fond of Travels (it was my first meeting with Ryszard), I most learned from Imperium, his profound, imminently readable, quotable, and digestible book (in that it is "food" for thought). The history of the Soviet Union: its rise and fall, was utterly interesting, informative, shocking, riveting--a year's worth of reading in one book, a full curricula of study. I was mesmerized. Again, here is the link to my review: Review of Imperium.
To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations - such is a pleasure beyond compare.  ~Kenko Yoshida
This quote summarizes the physical act of reading. Lamplight, book before you. If you're a reader, you immediately connected with the quote. If not,

(more to come--

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A favorite souvenir

A favorite souvenir
These are my two girls from Ireland!

Judy's shared items

Books on my very ambitious TBR list (*denotes read)

  • *Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox
  • The Odd Women by George Gissing
  • The Zen of Fish by Trevor Corson
  • How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell
  • The Cod Tale by Mark Kurlansky
  • In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
  • *Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
  • Dag Hammarskjold by Elizabeth Rider Montgomery
  • The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet by Rabbi Michael L. Munk
  • Children of Strangers by Lyle Saxon
  • Spiritual Writings by Flannery O'Connor
  • Nightmares and Visions: Flannery O'Connor and the Catholic Grotesque by Gilbert H. Muller
  • The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor
  • Flannery O'Connor's South by Robert Coles
  • Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
  • Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey
  • *Vincent de Paul by Margaret Ann Hubbard
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
  • A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  • The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel
  • Readicide by Kelly Gallagher
  • *Ruined by Paula Morris
  • Say You're Not One of Them by Uwem Akpan
  • Wandering Star by J.M.G. Le Clezio
  • Silence by Shusaku Endo
  • *The Assault by Harry Mulisch
  • Kari's Saga by Robert Jansson
  • *The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal
  • Western Skies by Joseph Conrad
  • *The Giver by Lois Lowery
  • *Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski

School Library Journal - NeverEndingSearch


A semester course in one book about the Soviet Union. Click on image for my review.