Not for me! I said of the e-reader revolution that was rolling through towns and cities, polarizing readers and providing a hot topic for book clubs. No way, no how, a digital tablet will never replace my relationship with the pure-driven paper variety that I caress each night by the light of my bedside table. As Amazon is my witness.
I love books. I love their weight perched against my bent legs and love their smell, whether hot-off -the-press fresh or mouldy with age. I love the act of turning a page and the feeling of accomplishment it provides (I aim low). I love gazing at my book shelf, where I group my favorites together, and how the briefest glimpse of certain titles can make me feel happy. Books have a visceral impact on me; when the going gets tough, I head to the library or nearest book store.
What I don’t like about books is moving them. I discovered this the year we changed addresses three times. This set me off on a tumultuous relationship with my local library – it’s all friendly and lovey dovey when my books are returned on time, not so much when a hardcover goes missing.
After one such recent episode, I turned my house upside down looking for my latest library book, and then headed to the Emergency Room of our hospital, where I’d last seen my copy, and turned that upside down. Twice. As luck would have it, my book was entitled When God Was a Rabbit, so the nurses in their scrubs looked at me quizzically when I described what I was looking for, wondering if I was a quack or simply a Buddhist.
At some point during this drama, I started to consider the purchase of an e-reader. Then the world began to conspire: I read an article trumpeting how easy the e-ink is on your eyes (way better than the iPad, btw), and on the same day, my friend visiting from Atlanta whipped out her e-reader before I could even pour her glass of wine. She sang its praises, saying it was the best thing since, well, books.
After five minutes of extensive research, I ordered a Kindle. At best, I was mildly curious. At worst, it would gather dust alongside the ab-cruncher I thought I couldn’t live without.
The slim box was delivered a few days later. It was as streamlined as any Apple product I have had the pleasure of opening – no confusing manual to master and no assembly required. I plugged it in and an hour later was off to the virtual Kindle store. I was digging it so far.
I quickly realized there were a couple of clever advantages my gadget had that my native books lacked: an online dictionary, the ability to highlight passages, and of course the ability to have any book I would ever want delivered to my device in about one minute. Inexplicably, I never turned my mind to that last little detail, which is enormously impressive but also potentially as dangerous as crack cocaine to my bank account. Hopefully I can read responsibly.
Here is a familiar scene: I fall into my bed, lights turned low, excited to escape into a fictional world, and I quickly come across a word that I don’t know, and can only guess at its meaning from the context. Or worse, it’s a word that I’m familiar with but unsure of its essence. I would like to know what it means, and suspect if I was the owner of a British accent I would indeed know what it means. But my dictionary resides a couple of staircases below where I am lying, as is my computer, and I am too lazy and forgetful to do anything about it. Two things you can never find in my house are matching socks and working pens, so writing the word down for future reference is also a challenge. Ergo the word remains masked in uncertainty.
E-reader to my rescue: I simply move a cursor anywhere on my page, and the dictionary meaning is automatically displayed in the bottom. The clouds just parted and the sun is shining a light on my swelling vocabulary.
When a passage or a line particularly catches my fancy, I like to make note of it. However, I have an odd phobia about writing in my books – I can’t bring myself to do it, I feel like I’m defacing property. Instead, I write the passage down in a journal, which can take a long time, assuming of course I find a working pen. And if the author happens to be David Mitchell, this can bring on writer’s cramp. With my new gadget, I can easily highlight passages with a press of a button and it will be saved under my notes for that book. Narly stuff.
I find it as easy to hold as a book, and in fact easier than some weighty hardcovers, and I can’t remember the last time I charged it – the battery kicks my laptop’s butt. To be clear, it’s no tablet, but that’s okay with me, since I don’t want to be tempted by the internet during my sacred reading time.
Still, there are drawbacks: puddles and baths pose problems. So many books at my fingertips might be hard on my wallet. The gadget itself isn’t as attractive as the beautiful kaleidoscope of spines on my bookshelf. And what could be more alluring than scouring second-hand book stores for gems? I don’t expect my e-reader to replace physical books altogether, but it only took five minutes to decide it is a brilliant addition to my library.
- Howard Jacobson: We’ll miss the sensuous pleasure of a real book (independent.co.uk)
- Kindle DX (emediatips.wordpress.com)
My timing is always off. By the time I was done with strollers, luxury all-terrain vehicles were gliding past me on trails. When I was done with maternity clothes, everyone from Michael Kors to Old Navy were in the business, and the tents of my gestation were replaced with sleek skinny jeans. So it was no surprise that I happened across a parenting book that finally spoke to me, just as my children are leaving their glorified toddler years: Go the F*** To Sleep, by Adam Mansbach.
The storm of controversy that followed its release occurred months ago, but I am not particularly well versed in news that doesn’t constitute traffic and weather. In keeping with my poor timing, I’m wading in.
This brilliant book perfectly chronicles every night of my life for the past twelve years. And if you happen to be one of those people who say to me, “Oh, I never have any trouble getting my child to sleep.” Or worse, one of those parents who coo, “My baby has slept through the night since the day we brought her home.” Or someone who has an endless amount of patience, or a prude, then this book isn’t for you.
But for the rest of us mortals, who labour each day to clothe and feed children whose limbs don’t want to be covered and whose mouths don’t wish to devour nutrients; bedtime is a ritual which puts us tantalizingly close to the person we once were, yet hovers out of reach as our children put us through a marathon bedtime session. By the time I’ve finished with the agonizing task, I’ve not only put my children to bed, but myself as well. The carefree, fun-loving interesting person I was before I became a nag remains in hibernation.
You see, the idea of laying down with my offspring to quietly whisper words of wisdom from Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss, or Sandra Boynton, until their eyelids droop shut and I tiptoe out of their bedroom sounds magical, but rarely ends with the ‘eyelids drooping’ detail. Every night starts this way, but ends up with me wearing down the carpet between their bedroom, the bathroom, and the kitchen as I go through the motions of appeasing their every whim and desire they can come up with in order for their eyelids to remain wide open.
I approach each night with both a sassy verve and forlorn sense of hope that tonight, by God, will be different. Tonight my children will not beg for one more book, one more hug, one more snack, one more bathroom trip, or complain of growing pains or monsters under their beds or being hot or cold. Each night I am disappointed.
I come by this honestly. Eating and sleeping were not my strong points as a child – singing and dancing, yes, basics of life – not so much. I remember fighting sleep with every scrawny scrap of my being, so I’m particularly good at empathizing for the first twenty minutes of nocturnal attempts. After that, my patience fades and is replaced by fury. As Adam Mansbach suggests so eloquently, “A hot crimson rage fills my heart, love. For real, shut the f*** up and sleep.”
From the fury, I typically spiral down to self-loathing and personal failure, which again is perfectly and poetically encapsulated in one line: “My life is a failure. I’m a shitty-ass parent. Stop f***ing with me, please, and sleep.”
Like any book worth its salt, and life itself, it doesn’t have a tidy or neat ending, but a more realistic one that is repeated in my household – even still – on a nightly basis.
I weep with love for my children as they lay sprawled in their beds or curled around their teddy bears. I breathe in their sweet aroma and fall in love with them all over again at the sight. But getting them to that spent state takes indefatigable stamina that I can barely muster, night after f***ing night, and finally some angel of mercy has recognized this.
Adam Mansbach, I never seem to bump into parents like you, but wish I did. Thanks for keeping it real, and giving us something to laugh about – it sure beats screaming in isolation. This book is like a giant, group hug for parents who, in pursuit of smooth bedtime transitions, taste defeat nightly.
In my previous life, bbc (before book club), the term ‘book club’ conjured visions of suburban women sitting around bitching about life. I steadfastly avoided them like the plague: my life was enough of a cliche, joining a book club would be the icing on my cake.
Besides, I’m conscientious about using any term which includes ‘club’; its exclusivity annoys me. I’m in, you’re out, it says, if you happen to not be a member. I’m more of an “everybody’s welcome! the more the merrier!” kind of girl; Maritimers never want to hurt feelings.
However I do love to read, and miss those days spent in English literature classes, trying to make sense out of Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Orwell. It was interesting to share ideas and concepts with others who loved books, examinations notwithstanding. Keep the class, lose the tests. That sounded promising.
Add to this utopia the ability to tailor your studying to include mostly books you have a burning desire to read, and assemble a group of people who will not cry “FOUL!” on the odd occasion life was too busy to finish the book, and you have yourself a book club, cupcake.
Despite knowing the concept was a sound one, I continued to resist. It would take up valuable time and energy, two things I was perennially short of. I steered wide and clear.
So when my friend Ruthie invited me to hers, I naturally and quickly responded that they weren’t my thing. Ruthie, knowing me well, persisted, demanding that I elaborate exactly why they weren’t my thing. When I couldn’t, I found myself staring at an email the next day with the details of the next meeting.
A few weeks later, cursing Ruthie for getting me into this situation, I arrived on the doorstep for my first meeting, armed with a bottle of wine and a carefully annotated and sticky-noted copy of the book. I didn’t know anyone except Ruthie, and I felt like the new kid in school, which is something I had never experienced in my life. What if they hate me?
Like any well-designed storyline, where the insecure heroine finds her groove in the end, this club I had so adamantly resisted became my most treasured evening out each month. It is an incredible group of warm, savvy and adventurous women. Whoever hosts chooses the book, so sometimes I am forced out of my comfort zone to read books I never would have otherwise, but am always glad I did in the end. (Well, except for Blindness. Sorry Ruthie.) I have slowly come to know all the members, and would jet off on a girls weekend with any of them in a heartbeat (hm, idea.) We drink wine, eat like queens, and bitch about life.
And sometimes, we even talk about the book.