Inked Words: A Page Turner
“I noticed that some of the first-class people were staring me down for having an open book. “Duder, that thing smells like wet socks,” said the young jock next to me…” (Shteyngart, p. 37)
“I took out my äppärät and began to thump it loudly with my finger to show how much I loved all things digital…” (Shteyngart, p. 37)
Was it only a few hours ago that I was conversing with a man – seventy-one years my senior –about the detriments of this technological time in which we dwell, live, and exist?
Let’s call said age-old man…Reed.
Reed and I spent what seemed like hours, but was but a single hour or two, talking about our mucho mutual love for physical novels…that tangible touch of bound pages that is being given a backseat ride in our journey onward and forward into the future. Reed spoke to me in vehement, fervent and passionate tones about his dislike for all things digital; he owns not a computer but a typewriter, not a phone but a landline, not electronic books but physical books.
My word, what a collection of physical books! Everywhere I turned in his serenely quiet abode, books bounded in shapes, colors and sizes filled my eyes and enticed my soul: their names intriguing and their synopsizes enrapturing. Though his body suffers from the ailments that accompany one’s senescence stage of life, Reed’s mind is still as alert as it had to be when he was a soldier fighting for his life – and the lives of others – during WWII. How did Reed manage to avoid that awful dulling of the mind? He found a way to keep his sword sharpened by reading; though his fingers are gnarled, he still turns page after page…day after day…
After my visit, with my mind still buzzing with Reed’s entertaining company and two cups of tea, I pondered upon my approach to reading. In many ways, my mind runs parallel to Reed’s; I love physical books; the intoxicating smell of the fresh pages of a new book; the nostalgic smell of the already turned pages of a used book; everything that is a book I love. While insufficient space causes me to mostly purchase electronic books, I still prefer physical books. In Super Sad True Love Story, I was downright outraged at that young jock’s comment about Lenny’s novel! How dare he equate the smell of a book to wet socks?? It saddened me that Lenny had to tuck who he was – a book reader/lover – into an unseen place and pretend to be who he wasn’t – an all-consumed digital lover. In many of today’s societies and peer circles, this is not unheard of. I have many friends who cannot fathom my love for reading and preference for physical books. Nevertheless, I am happy that the scale of my friends’ preferences tips over to the side of those who still love physical books and reading.
But reading is becoming increasingly difficult in our contemporary and digital culture:
“Reading is difficult. People just aren’t meant to read anymore. We’re in a post-literate age. You know, a visual age.” (Shteyngart, 2010)
I have many younger cousins who would agree with the above quote…that is if they took the time to actually read it! My cousins, young, vibrant digital natives are operating iPads, iPhones, Macs, Laptops, tablets years before they can read written words: my two-year-old cousin fully operates her iPad; my ten-year-old brother creams me in video games; my one-year-old cousin said Xbox before book. Their minds are overflowing with all-things-visual and barely-anything-literate; yes, they are also academically learning and excelling but the love of reading is lacking in a fundamentally substantive presence. My brother knows not those age-old tales that I grew up reading: The Three Musketeers, Heidi, Wuthering Heights, all the fairy tales, all the Enid Blyton novels, all the Nancy Drew’s, all the Hardy Boys, all the Great Illustrated Classics but he knows Legos and YouTube. Yes, he is still an excellent student in school but I fear for him when he reaches high school and faces those reading-on-the-heavy-side classes, his indifference towards reading can turn into hatred. I will hope that at least a sliver of my love for reading was genetically passed on to brother dearest…
My brother and my cousins are just three examples amongst the multitude of young children who are growing up with the absence of reading: their birthday lists would be too stuffed with tablets, cellphones, video games and video consoles to find room for a book or two. Though we live in this rapidly advancing technological time, we must not forget to remember the parts of our past that helped to bring us to this present: the art of reading, of reasoning, of realizing all help us to continuously carve a better tomorrow.
What more, reading enables us to travel all around Earth, all the Universe, and even all around the metaphysical right from that warm, snug place where we read; for those of us who cannot yet afford the luxuries of Travelling The World, a good read or two can show us the world in its diverse splendor with just ink and inspiration.
Jojen, in George Martin’s A Dance With Dragons said that “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies.”
How about infinite lives?
Very astutely said, George Martin…
George Martin Quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2017, from Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/405787-my-brother-has-his-sword-king-robert-has-his-warhammerhttps://www.goodreads.com/quotes/405787-my-brother-has-his-sword-king-robert-has-his-warhammer
George Martin Quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2017, from Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/408441-a-reader-lives-a-thousand-lives-before-he-dies-said
Shteyngart, G. (2010). Super Sad True Love Story. New York, New York, United States of America: Random House Trade Paperbacks. Retrieved March 2017