Friday, April 15, 2011

A Letter Praising Books

Dear readers,

I'm writing to you in letter format again, since I'm hoping to keep up the awareness and art form of letter writing, even if it's composed over e-mail or other technological form.

This week, I got a delivery of Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies from a co-worker, with the most beautifully written thank you note on a stationary with her name attached to it. I thought I couldn't remember when I last received such a fine note, and this one from a child. Even on Christmas cards, I barely get more than "Merry Christmas." Truth be told, I don't recall receiving any letters in the mail since my college years.

Here's the reason for today's letter...

Some women covet shoes. Others bags. Here's what draws me like a moth to a flame: books. Filled with words that move me and stay with me, actually become part of me, ideas that challenge me, stories that make me dream, time that knows no boundaries.

Books: actual turn the page, put a bookmark in it, flip back to a cherished passage you were lingering over - those books. I hope they remain stalwarts.

I considered this recent New York Times article that Amazon will begin selling $114 Kindles which will include ads as screen savers and at the bottom of the home screen, and selling special offers. Why does consumerism need to be infused in every element of our lives? Shannon Hoon sang in Blind Melon's No Rain, "All I can do is read a book to stay awake, and it rips my life away but it's a great escape." There's no escaping commercials.

I don't despise eReaders the way many book lovers do. A friend thinks they will co-exist peacefully among books. And promoting literacy in our age of arts and education cuts is a good thing.

But I find so much of what I read through thrift shops and library book sales. I discovered my favorite new author, Keith Donohue, at thrift. His latest, Centuries of June, is coming out May 31st, and I'm actually giddy. Giddy over a book. My last read, Witch Child, which still haunts me and my mother is now enjoying, was 25 cents from a library book sale. I would have never been exposed to either if the physical books weren't bought and passed on. I love passing on a cherished book once I've read it (I keep a few for my own).

The New York Times wrote a beautiful love letter of an article to typewriters, and I thought of the parallel to books. Here are some of my favorite passages from it:

"Manual typewriters aren't going gently into the good night of the digital era.

For one, old typewriters are built like battleships. They survive countless indignities and welcome repairs, unlike laptops and smartphones, which become obsolete almost the moment they hit the market. "It's kind of like saying, 'In your face, Microsoft!'

Young typerwriter afficiandos...chafe against digital doctrines that identify human "progress" as a ceaseless march toward greater efficiency, the search for a frictionless machine.

Louis Smith, 28, a drummer from Williamsburg, stated "It's about permanence, not being able to hit delete. You have to have some conviction in your thoughts."

I loved this, and I consider the concept of permanence in our world of texts and e-mails gone so quickly, stories never passed on, and a book outlasting decades while gadgets get upgraded.

I'll write again soon, as I have a fine book calling my name. As you can see, I have far too much to read, but in my book (pun intended), that's the best kind of excess in life you can have. Happy reading.



  1. I love receiving handwritten notes and letters, and save many of them. It's so rare that I'm always very pleased to get them.

    I don't mind the existence of ereaders, and if I traveled more/had more money in general, I'd probably invest in one. But nothing beats a real book (or a real book checked out from the library). And I must say that I'm horrified, though not surprised, by Kindles containing ads. Ouch.

    If you wouldn't find this strange, I would love to write real letters to you!

  2. Cate, not only would I not find it strange, I would just love to exchange letters! Thank you!!! I’ll be in touch through the e-mail on your site. :-)

    Just for me, since I'm in front of a computer for work 5 days a week, and I do enjoy an iPod since I love music, I don't want too much exposure to another gadget. But I love seeing people lost in a good book (eReader or real). Like food, it's one of life's great pleasures.

  3. I wish everything were not so extreme in the US. In Europe, well OK France, UK and Italy of late, you do NOT see bookstores closing up like crazy. The magazine stands are still filled with piles of magazines. There is not this panic about losing a treasured favorite friend that we have here. Perhaps the Kindle has not made so many inroads though I saw some and lots more of iPads...I can't be certain. Perhaps they are just more sensible then we are. DEFINITELY> I will never give up turning real pages.
    Even if I have to move to another planet.
    So be it.
    What's yr address? :)

  4. Hi Carol. It's very saddening to see the loss of book stores. While I favor my independent book shop, I've been to some great events at larger chains. At the Borders in Columbus Circle I heard Jil Aigrot perform the music she sang as the voice of Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose, and heard Gene Baur talking about his Farm Sanctuary and compassion for farm animals. At Barnes and Noble in Union Square, I heard an amazing Q&A session and concert by Natalie Merchant when Leave Your Sleep came out. The Kindle or iPad experience offers no events like this for artists and authors to engage so intimately with the public.

    On a happier note, will be in touch. Will move to the same planet where books are too.