Read Reread Read More
Just this weekend was the BookExpo America. OK, right, so? So it was the sheer cultural dominance of America that I knew the event had 30,000 booksellers/publishers attending, was held in New York, and spawned countless articles lamenting the death of reading.
The American press was quick to declare not just the death of reading, but also the the death of browsing. Earlier there were speculations (inaccurate) that digital books inour PDAs would render books (lovely paper, binding, jackets and...dust) obsolete. Even earlier, of course, we have already been told that that the author is dead - though the author still outlived God.
But despite such pronouncements, that weekend I called up a defence:
1. I marched to Kino, browsed, bought 2 books and read Toni Morrison's "The Dancing Mind", in which she described as "disability" a privileged and successful young man's lack of acquanintance with the experience of reading for hours and hours in the company of his own mind.
2. Home and online, I discovered Tym's own adventure, rereading the tracks that memory had left across her bookshelves. Some of them are memories I share...the Robert-Lowell-phase for example. Heh.
3. Both of the above sent me on a hunt for RK Narayan's wonderful little essay about his attempt to clear out his library, changing his mind (possessiveness? nostlagia? greed?), postponing the disposal and finding, one day, that white ants have done what he didn't. How he makes me laugh!
4. Then I remembered Borges, appointed the Director of his country's National Library that same year he had started to become blind. A man who can no longer read, surrounded daily by 1 million books: "I was in charge of, I was told, a million books. Later I found out it was nine hundred thousand - a number that's more than enough. (And perhaps nine hundred thousand seems more than a million.)" - "Seven Nights".
5. Sunday night, reluctant to sleep, I decided to launch my very own reading campaign. And with Adobe Photoshop's help, enlist James as the new poster boy for the campaign. (Yes, if i-only-read-large-print James thinks reading is fun, you will too!)
So friends, don't believe those false obituaries. Spread the word, feel free to use the poster. Read.