Saturday, February 23, 2013

When did books become a burden?

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.

1 comment:

  1. Books at every hand.
    Toilet, bed stand, kitchen counter, hassock.
    Only great and or interestingly weird
    The bible - two or three versions, the I ching, poetry
    Plus essays and novels. Read.

    Fragments or wholes as each moment allows.
    Consider my obsessions and delights.


    Books that have moved from shelf to bedside, kitchen counter and bathroom radiator in the previous 72 hours.

    Poems of Early Buddhist Nuns
    Hungarian and German cookbooks, one of each.
    Journals of nurse practitioners, with articles of particular interest.;
    Asthma, compliance, dysuria, bronchitis.
    Japanese love poems
    Four Japanese cookbooks,
    Essays that I would read only because my friend’s son published them.
    Eileen Myles, poetry,
    Two Bibles
    Two books titled Tea
    One I ching
    Poets and Writers with Billy Collins on the cover.
    Mary Oliver’s latest
    Aldo Buzzi.
    Two months later:
    Books on Bedside stand.
    MF Fisher, Sister Age
    The Kite Runner (unstarted)
    February 9th New Yorker
    Joanne Kyer, Strange Big Moon.

    I hear you Terez!
    Love Trudy