Thursday, May 20, 2010

old-time romance

When I was a kid, I was always lamenting the fact that I lived in the present and everything worth being romantic about was over. Old steam locomotives and world's fairs and black and white movie glamour queens. What did I have? Freeway overpasses and 7-11s.

Then I ran off with the circus and had all the old-time romance I needed. Granted, I was still following the show across freeway overpasses and gassing up and getting the occasional awful snack at a 7-11 (what else are you going to do when it's the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere and you've got a hundred mile jump?). But I also had big tops and ostentatious ringmaster words and clown shoes.

Now I realize I'm in another modern place of old-time romance. More and more as bookstores and books with actual paper in them are disappearing. It's a strange place to be. A scary place. My life is... what?... seventy percent books? Spend my days reading them, shelving them, creating displays for them, paying tribute to them. Spend my nights working on writing them. I can understand the move toward e-books, to using fewer resources, but oh those things, books.

Maurice Sendak once said when he was a little boy he loved books so much he would bite them. Feel and smell and taste that wonderful book in his mouth.

I don't want to lose this. Sacred object. I read this line this morning in a blog I follow by a writer named William Michaelian:

"I’ve suspected for quite some time that books also read people, and that pages remember sighs and fingertips."

[yes, i realize the irony that i read it on a computer]

Someday books will be like dirigibles and cobblestone streets and bumper bangs. A way to show, in a movie, that it's the old time. And I'll be an old lady with floor to ceiling bookcases. I'll know that in my youth I lived during the romantic time of books. The young folk will laugh at me because I'm so old fashioned I refuse to let the doctor use the booksaber and drill a tiny hole in my head to insert the new book transmitter that's all the rage. I think I'll also have bumper bangs.


  1. I really enjoyed your observation…I’m with you (oh wait, I already am an old lady with shelves of books) I really became aware of and embraced my love of the printed word when my library co-workers began sharing such comments as ‘books are friends who never fail us’ with me and observed that stacks of books in my work space calmed me, rather than annoyed me. When someone added a tiny water fountain to their desk (for white noise? dry skin? who knows) I shuddered, and realized that I did think such a thing was inappropriate around all the paper; almost a visceral response—even though I love the sound of water as much as the next guy—in its place.
    The printed book appeals to all the senses, including the sixth sense, and limiting that access will be a true loss, not progress. There must be room for both digital and printed in the world!

  2. Hi Shirley--love your comments! I love what you say about stacks of books around being calming. And your visceral objection to the water fountain. Hail, protector of books! In a way, I love how fragile they are, all those thin pages. Something sacred in that.