I have a piece of paper on my right which lists the numerous lines of thought I embarked on after reading McShandy’s post about reading. Here is another one of them.
I believe very strongly that there is an engagement between reader and book. I think about it not only as an emotional and intellectual engagement but as a physical ‘docking’; two parts designed to connect, their coming together producing a synergistic bigger whole. I love that idea and also that reality. Books are precious to me in their physical form and although I don’t judge other people on how they treat books – no! I couldn’t sustain that for another second; of course I judge people on how they treat books.
I remember lending a book (always a bad idea) to a flatmate. We discussed the book a couple of times when we crossed paths in the kitchen and I was pleased that she liked it and delighted we shared a love for reading. All of this was tarnished when she pulled the book out of her rucksack (I despise all rucksacks and the bodies on which they travel) to return it to me. I did not know what the tattered, mouldy lump she was offering to me was at first. It was bent, folded, dirty, ripped and covered in decomposing banana. I could not believe that a) this was how she would treat a book, and b) this is how she would treat a book that did not belong to her.
Now it is not often I opt for the confrontation route. Normally I let things fester and act weird around you, but this was something else entirely. I refused the book telling her calmly that what was in her hand did not belong to me and was most certainly not what I had given her. She laughed and tried to explain the banana, thinking that was the problem. She then gave her version of the old banana-in-the-rucksack defence, which never moves me.
We spent some time explaining each other’s position; she thought I was over-reacting and I thought she was a book murdering Nazi. It took some time and some wine but we managed to remain friends.
This however was not my original point. It was about my Sony Reader. I had mentioned to Santa one day over cocktails that at some point in my future, I wanted an e-reader. I really must be more careful of what I say around Santa in future because I received a Sony Reader for Christmas.
It was not an item I was desperate for but I was quite excited and immediately downloaded everything by Dickens and Shakespeare because it was free, and bought the two books I was dying to read: Under the Dome by Stephen King and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. I have read neither.
The Reader is so much more portable than a book which I love, but I find I put it in my bag and immediately forget it is there. Since Christmas I have spent more time thinking – Shit! Where is my reader? – than I have using it. Maybe I just haven’t given it enough of a chance. I should sit down to read using the reader instead of pulling it out of my bag in the numerous dead time slots McShandy’s spoke about.
I am not at all convinced by the name either. It is not a ‘reader’, I am. I read therefore I am. You are an electronic device therefore you do as you are told. Not the same thing at all. I don’t know. For me it has a bit of an esoteric ring to it; the Reader. Perhaps it is here to save the world; I suppose it is saving trees.
I’m not sure about the physical engagement with a reader either. I haven’t managed to successfully ‘dock’ with my reader and that just makes me worry that somewhere on my person there should be a jack or a USB port for such devices. I don’t have one. I am not sure if this means I am obsolete.