One of These Things is Not Like the Others

EQ books & Nook

Hey, how did that Nook get in there?!

I admit it.  I even say it with some pride: I’m an old-school reader (and writer, too, but right now I’m just speaking as a reader).  I love the weight of the book in my hands and the feel of the paper as I turn the pages.  Some of my fellow book lovers say they love the smell of books, too, but I personally only hold that true of new books.  Old books, especially ones that haven’t been stored correctly, have always smelled musty and gross to me.  Oh, I’ll still read them, but I’m not going to plunge my nose between the pages and take a huge whiff like some of my fellow bibliophiles say they do.

One thing that’s become important to me in the past couple of years is donating my books after I’m finished.  When I was growing up, escaping to other worlds through books was vital to my existence.  I couldn’t always afford to buy my own books.  Libraries are wonderful, but not everybody has access to them.  Especially these days, as budget cuts begin to make them disappear.  It’s important to me to do my part to help reading be available to people who don’t have much money.

I also want to support brick-and-mortar bookstores.  Especially small businesses that are locally owned.

This being said…

Last November, Barnes & Noble had their basic Nook Simple Touch Reader on sale nearly half price for Black Friday.  Up to that point, I had thumbed my nose at e-readers.  However, as a writer, I’d been reluctantly tossing around the idea of looking into one.  I may be old school in my views, but the world of publishing is changing whether I like it or not.  So, impulsively, I ordered the Nook.

I feel guilty even saying this, but I fell in love with it immediately.

Reason #1 I love my Nook:  reading in bed.  Who among us has not fallen asleep in bed with the open book tumbled gently beside our snoring faces?  The e-reader is a lazy person’s dream.  I can lie on my side with the Nook propped up on the other pillow.  No need to hold it, or hold the pages down.  I don’t even need to turn the pages.  Just lift a finger and flick.

It also makes reading easier when I’m lying on the sofa.  I can rest my hand beside my face and prop the Nook against it.  That, however, poses its own problem.  When I fall asleep while reading (as I inevitably do), my hand relaxes and the Nook falls off the edge of the sofa.  After the first few such tumbles, I now place a pillow on the floor beside the sofa whenever I lie down to read there.

And when I’m at lunch at work, I don’t have to try to hold pages down.  Just rest the e-reader beside my sandwich and I’m golden.

Reason #2 I love my e-reader:  I’ve got around 30 books on it now, and can carry them all with me anywhere I go.  If I’m sitting around waiting for my car to be washed (I get unlimited free washes at the dealership where I bought my Honda) and the book I’m currently reading begins to bore or otherwise displease me, I can easily move on.

Still, I feel horribly guilty.  I’m trying to keep in mind that old childhood nursery rhyme:  “Make new friends but keep the old.  One is silver, the other gold.”

In the same vein, I’ve recently gotten out my old Nikon 35mm film camera.  Like a book, the weight of it feels wonderful in my hands.  So wonderful that I’ve decided to make it my primary camera again.  It’s like seeing an old friend again after a long time and picking up right where you left off.

I like my new silver friends, the digital camera and the e-reader.  But my old friends, the analog Nikon and the paper-and-ink books – those are gold.

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A Word by Any Other Name

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My mom never understood the time I spent with books. When I was a kid, she would actually lock me out of the house with the command to “Get some sun.”  Ha!  Little did she know. I sneaked books outside with me and sat in the shade of our backyard birch tree to continue my journey away from reality.

I was no less avid a reader as a teen, but definitely a whole lot more picky.  The books targeted to my age group covered serious and realistic concerns: drug use, mental illness, running away, teen pregnancy, etc.  But why, I wondered, didn’t any of the characters in these books ever swear? My peers—especially those of the male persuasion—certainly knew how to let the curse words fly (when the parental units weren’t around, anyway).  So why did these people have such clean mouths?

That, of course, was in my naïve youth.  And trust me, I was more naïve than most teens, even back in the ‘70s.  Remember, I was painfully shy and spent most of my time with books rather than people.  So I had this idealistic notion that people in Young Adult books should talk the way kids in life do.

When I wrote my first novel-length story at age 15, I gave my characters realistic dialogue.  No “f” or “s” word was spared when I figured a real peer would be using it.  Not that my characters had potty mouths. I didn’t put in any gratuitous cursing, either.  I just wanted to produce something that I wished had been available to me as a reader:  characters my own age speaking real dialogue.

Once finished with the novel, I blithely showed my creation to my English/Creative Writing teacher.  She did not like the swearing at all.  However, she did say that I write dialogue well because I really listen to people talk.  For a very young writer, the latter was encouraging while the former was just adult silliness.

I did eventually get it.  Parents don’t necessarily want their teens to be exposed to (ahem) “realistic dialogue” in their reading material regardless of what they may be hearing around them every day in real life.  I’ve chosen not to have kids, so I don’t have my own parental viewpoint on the matter.  All I do know is that my late mom never censored anything I read as I was growing up.  Whether that’s because she was a liberal thinker or because she was just relieved that I was reading instead of going out and getting into trouble, I have no idea.

This is my first blog post, so I’m not sure how many are reading this.  For those who are, I’d love to know if any other avid readers and/or fellow writers have ever felt the same way.