Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Things we touch

This book cover discussion got me thinking. Today I’m subbing for 10th Grade and 12th Grade AP English classes, and high on the walls in the classroom are quotes. I

always enjoy reading these, and one in particular caught my eye. “Authors leave us more than their words—they leave us a way of looking at life.”

This statement may make me sound ancient, but along with the loss of enticing book covers in the age of escalating electronics, I wonder if we’ll someday regret the impermanence of communication. Historians like David McCollough and Doris Kearns Goodwin have been able to pour through archives of letters and written memos stored by families, libraries, and museums. My friend Ann Parker, who writes a compelling crime fiction series that takes place in Colorado’s Old West, has shared that she’s delved into some of the same letters Wallace Stegner used for Angle of Repose. Wow, that is so cool.

Historians can hold these old documents and study the authors’ handwriting, when he or she faltered, scratched something out, or revealed insecurities and emotion. Other than reading between the lines, we can’t do that with email or texting. Although the storage capacity on my gmail accoun

t is huge, I delete a ton of email, partly because I’m overwhelmed, so I often don’t keep communication with friends and loved ones.

Because of the high probability that I’m an old fart who still likes a hand-written thank you note and turning the pages of a book, I asked one of the 10th grade classes if anyone read e-books. “No,” said one young woman, her voice strong, “I read real books.”

Real books, I like that. But this school has a bookstore to rival that of many colleges and these students have no choice but to buy assigned textbooks. For another young point of view, I texted my senior-in-college son, the one who wanted a Kindle for his birthday. Naturally, this made me remember the letters my parents wrote me when I was in college, the ones I kept and reread when I was homesick. I’ve probably written him two letters in four years. I call, text, or email almost every day, though.

“I have a question about books,” I asked. “Can I call you?”

“I’m heading to a speech by Bill Gates,” he relied. “I’ll call you after.”

Hey, I’d like to go to that talk, too, but I bet it’ll be posted on line. There is such a wealth of information at our fingertips, it often seems ethereal and fleeting. I plan to ask my son if he saves favorite books, or makes a decision to buy a book because of its cover. I certainly do, but you knew that already. If he takes my question seriously, I’ll let you know.


Rick Blechta said...

God bless the kids!


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