Saturday, February 6, 2010

In praise of the book

...and by "book" I refer to the humble codex, a collection of thoughts on a subject committed to writing and then printed as text on pages that have been bound together and placed between covers ... not the Kindle, iPad, or other manifestations of the ebook.

A book is so simple. I realized this one day on the train to work as I pulled out the title I was reading.

I don't have to subscribe to it or connect to the Internet to access it or recharge the device containing it.

I don't have to put earphones on (although I do enjoy listening to an audiobook now and then, sort of like reading with my ears for a change instead of my eyes).

And when I'm reading a book borrowed from a library and some of the pages are a bit worn and dog-eared at the corners,  I feel as though I'm holding in my hands something that unknown friends have also cherished. If the binding is a little more (com)pliant than it used to be, it's because previous readers have graciously tucked bits of their thoughts into it.

Of course, I realize that the more technologically complex forms of the book are a boon to many others who are not blessed as I am with excellent eyesight.  Still, I give thanks for the simple codex and for the library network that crisscrosses the region where I live, sending me books on all sorts of subjects, in different languages, and all for free.


  1. No, I hope the world doesn't succumb to the iPads and Kindles. Some of my happiest times have been mooching round second-hand bookshops!

    Your post made me think of the Yorkshire poet Tony Harrison poem "Bookends" - he wrote a series of sonnets on the death of his mother which are beautiful. I love this poem.


    Baked the day she suddenly dropped dead
    we chew it slowly that last apple pie.

    Shocked into sleeplessness you're scared of bed.
    We never could talk much, and now don't try.

    You're like book ends, the pair of you, she'd say,
    Hog that grate, say nothing, sit, sleep, stare…

    The 'scholar' me, you, worn out on poor pay,
    only our silence made us seem a pair.

    Not as good for staring in, blue gas,
    too regular each bud, each yellow spike.

    At night you need my company to pass
    and she not here to tell us we're alike!

    You're life's all shattered into smithereens.

    Back in our silences and sullen looks,
    for all the Scotch we drink, what's still between 's
    not the thirty or so years, but books, books, books.

  2. Hi Ray,

    Thanks for that poem. I had never read it before.

    Another friend sent me this poem by Emily Dickinson, which actually made me cry when I read it:

    There is no Frigate like a Book
    To take us Lands away
    Nor any Coursers like a Page
    Of prancing Poetry --
    This Traverse may the poorest take
    Without oppress of Toll --
    How frugal is the Chariot
    That bears the Human soul.


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