When did books become a burden?
As I sit in my bedroom every surface (even the bed) is cluttered with books. There are the books I have promised to read for various reasons (the author is coming to town, a friend has passed it on) and the ones I couldn’t resist picking up in a world where hardcovers can cost as little as a dollar and paperbacks, a mere quarter. And did I mention my kindle, crammed with classics?
Such excess has led to disdain. I avoid looking at the volumes that just a short time ago I was dying to read. There are simply too many of them. This is modern overload.
Contrast this with my years in Spain. I waited impatiently for the January sales in the oddly named “Happy Books” when I could pick up popular fiction and classics IN ENGLISH for half price. I read everything from Wilke Collins to the latest novels. It was such a pleasure to search the books for something I might want to read. I also sent myself boxes of books from the US for more serious reading (back in the pre-Amazon days).
There was the summer I spent in Capcanes in the Priorat, a town so small even newspapers in any language weren’t available. I blew through every piece of reading material I had with me in a week and I had several more weeks to go. My friend Linda came to visit and brought a suitcase full of books. I am still grateful!
Back in Barcelona I worked as a reader in two publishing houses, Ediciones B and Grijalbo Mondadori (thanks Jill for getting me started there). There was a time when I had read every popular fiction book (before they came out). In those days too, every work submitted by any author was read and reported on. I read anywhere from 2-4 books a week. I was introduced to two genres- crime, which probably led me to write crime fiction, and biography which was surprisingly engaging.
By the time I left Europe, FNAC ( the French chain) appeared and lots of fiction in English became available. When I left behind my library of hundreds of volumes I was hard pressed to give them away.
So what happened? Where does it end? Is it social media that sucks up our time or simple overload? Everyone has a voice and there is no discrimination of what’s good or not. It just keeps coming at you.