cc licensed flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

I’m about six weeks into my round the world loop, been here in Brisbane, Australia since arriving Thursday. For the long trip and spots of free time, I practiced one of my favorite book selection techniques. I went to the Senior Center Thrift Store in Pine Arizona and picked up a paperback I never heard of, never spending more than 25 cents on the investment.

This one is paying off.

I’ve known of Tom Robbins maybe my mention but never read any of his novels. and frankly, Still Life with Woodpecker is so far over the top and down the other side, I could not be happier It is super dark and funny. I get a chuckle just looking at the cover, and cannot help of thinking of my favorite new ex-smoker.

The writing style is rapid fire bullets, and dark dark sarcasm. Mostly, I like that as I read, I cannot anticipate at all what wildness will come next.

Using this old technology to read is fun, and my bookmarking system works as good as anything on a iKindlePadReaderGalaxy… I fold down the corner of a page. Even the seasons get a turn on the grill–

It was autumn, the springtime of death. Rain spattered the rotting leaves, and a wild wind wailed. Death was singing in the shower. Death was happy to be alive.

OMG, Death was singing in the shower.

And why has humanity advanced? Technology? Opposable thumbs? Sharpened stones? Nope- give credit to neoteny–

Humans are the most advanced of mammals– although a case could be made for dolphins– because they seldom grow up. Behavioral traits such as curiosity about the world, flexibility of response, and playfulness are common to practically all young mammals but are usually rapidly lost with the onset of maturity in all but humans. Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature.

I wish I could quote that next time someone told me I was acting childish.

Finally, I loved the rapture of the writer on his Remington SL3, projecting the future of technology?

I’m not as far gone that I expect technologists to be interested in designing machines for artists– why if novelists got wooden typewriters, poets would demand theirs be ice. What is more likely is that technology will bypass artists, that a day is coming when our novels will be written by computers, the same devices that will paint our murals and compose our tunes. If I am chucking, it’s because I’m imagining a computer, programmed to produce logical variations on the eighteen possible literary plots…

From some of the bits of network television shows I only glimpse at while in hotels. we might be past that stage.

But crossing over from fiction to (quasi) reality, I am thinking about all the people who write books, articles, and web pages about how reading is dead or endangered. Before I left, driving down to the Phoenix airport, I listedn to an IT Conversations podcast (Tech Nation) with Nicholas Carr.

I’ve not read his shallow book (hey it’s the title– The Shallows: What is the Internet Doing to Our Brain). And who am I tot talk, he’s like a published author. I typically have trouble when people suggest things on the span of human activity, especially this very sliver of what is already a tiny sliver of real time– is changing our brains. I just do not buy it, even though he does tap into science research.

But mainly, I get stuck on what I hear is an extrapolation of his singular experience- of finding it difficult to focus on Old Fashioned Book Reading (hereafter referred to as OFBR)– to that of all other human brains. On my trip over here, I read for long stretches, and watched many others in airport terminals, on the plane, holding analog books (those things where you manually turn pages). I could not see any sign that people were fidgety, inattentive, reaching for their mobiles– I saw every person reading– deeply immersed and calm in their reading.

But I wont extrapolate.

I also grow wary of the starting assumption that OFBR is necessarily a better way of reading– to me it reeks of a bit of musty page smelling superiority complex.

Whereever I see bookstores, places selling used books– I see a lot of people, like this spot in on the Southbank in London


cc licensed flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

But I remain even on this score. I like reading electronic texts on my iPad, short stories on my iPhone, and just as often some OFBR in a thrift store paperback.

You see, I read books– I don’t read devices.

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

Comments

  1. Reading books was rekindled, pun intended, for me when I got my kindle. My eyes are having problems and the e-ink display is easier than even regular paper books to read. I’ve read more new books since I got that than I did for several years prior. I think for me the reason is once I buy a book I really can’t ever let it go so the overwhelming tide of paper books was getting too much so I stopped reading. Files backed up on my computer and server seem so much easier to deal with.

    I’ve tried reading on my computer and on my iPod Touch but the emissive display is painful for long stretches of reading where the kindle is soothing.

    The real point though is while for me the device is an important choice the real important thing is the book itself. The kindle has freed up space for me to read a lot more and I’m a lot more willing to at least try a sample of a book I’ve never heard of or an author I don’t know because I can test it out on the kindle first.

    And in Honor of Banned Books Week I’ve been re-reading many of the great and not so great books that are on the ALA banned books list. Reading is freedom, we should always be allowed to read whatever we want to.

  2. Wow so cool to hear that you jut discovered Tom Robbins. For me it was about 15 years ago when a friend said that I had to read Another Roadside Attraction. I was quickly sold after that. I have read all of his books, although really he is writing the same book over and over, but I like what he is selling so I am sold. I know a lot of people who are annoyed by his childish, snarky prose, but if you can stand or better yet, if you like it I recommend you check out all his books. I was going to recommend a few that I really like, but truly they are all pretty great.

    I just love how he can meld politics, religion, hippiedom, and out of the box thinking.

  3. @Oogie- you make ratehr valid points about the readability gains for the devices. That I see as a total gain. And I too am liking not cluttering my shelves up with that “to read” pile- it takes up much less space on my iPad!

    @Jabiz- I feel good if I am reading stuff you recommend!

    1. Much less space mentally too. Seeing a huge want to read pile of physical books teetering on the brink of collapse is discouraging, plugging away through a several hundred book list on my kindle and a 300+ saved for later list is not nearly so daunting.

      I’ve been reading a lot of SF, mystery and historical fiction, my usuals, but interspersed with some other stuff. In the other stuff category here’s a couple of good ones “The Uncommon Reader” Alan Bennett is a great short story. “Letter from the Trenches” Bill Lamin, started as a blog of letters 100 years after WW I and now a book. http://wwar1.blogspot.com/2006/07/private-harry-lamin.html
      “A Broad Abroad in Thailand” Dodie Cross, just started and is side splittingly funny.

      I’ve also started Kim Harrison’s series that starts with Dead Witch Walking and Cara Black’s Murder in the Marais.

      And I just can’t let any book list go without recommending “Three Bags Full” by Leonie Swann. It’s a murder mystery but the flock of sheep are the detectives. I love it and have re-read it several times. Too funny if you own sheep, I see all those characters in my own flock, especially Miss Maple & Mopple the Whale. If you even remotely like mysteries get this one.

  4. As an OFBReader from way back, my new fashioned book reading on the Kindle has merely changed the flavour a little via the delivery technology. And not changed it greatly, as I imagine a piece of paper sandwiched under the screen, as I read it propped up on cold nights, darting a hand out periodically to turn the page. I sometimes find myself mentally preparing to press the side of a book’s page. And a Kindle is matte and homey, even the slow response is part of the link to old-fashioned. I don’t ‘read’ on my shiny iPad – that’s for short snippets and knocking down grinning pigs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *