Friday, January 20, 2012


OK, I've done it. I've lost my innocence. I've slept with the devil. I've sold my soul in a Faustian bargain. I've bartered paper for e-ink.

Yep, I've now read three books on a Kindle.

Son Dan gave my spouse a Kindle for Christmas. He knew better than to give me one. But M.? She promptly downloaded the complete Agatha Christies and Eric Larson's In the Garden of Beasts, and off we went to the Bahamas.

I snorted in derision.

But then here we are, on this tiny island with its tiny library, which I have long since read my way through, and which has no budget for buying books, and so relies on the occasional contribution from passing patrons, which consist mostly of airport paperbacks, Mary Higgins Clark and James Patterson, say.

What's a guy to do? A guy who spends most of his life blissfully ensconced in a book-crammed college library.

So anyway, I read In the Garden of Beasts on M's Kindle. Then Bakewell's Montainge and Massie's Catherine the Great. And I'll give it this: If you are marooned on a desert island (with access to cyberspace), Kindle is a godsend, like a good knife, a box of matches, or packets of antibiotics.

But otherwise it stinks.

I won't mention the difficulty of accessing footnotes and illustrations. If I read a book, I want to digest it, think about what I read, and write about it. Which means making marginal glosses as I read, and notes in the endpapers. When I read a book I want it to look read -- dog-eared and penciled-scratched -- like my father's wood-handled hammer that eventually took the shape of his hand. Then I want it there on the shelf, as part of an ever-growing personal library, a reminder of where I've been, something I can return to when the spirit moves.