April 4, 2010KR BlogKR

But Can I Take Kindle into the Tub with Me?

I went over a friend’s house to setup her computer to streamline the stuff she does on it. She mentioned that she had seen a Kindle last weekend and thought to get her husband one for his birthday, since her husband loves to read multiple books at once (unlike her, who focuses on just one at a time). This way, he wouldn’t have to lug them around all his life.

This image of lugging a bunch of books lead to a brief conversation about the move of our famous bookstore, Elliott Bay Book Company, from its historic Pioneer Square location to the Capitol Hill neighborhood (in which I live BTW and quite frankly, am a bit joyous to have this bookstore be my new beautiful, wise and charming neighbor. I don’t think there’s a place in town that epitomizes so well who I would want to be if I could make that happen.)

But this conversation about the weight of books helped me realize why I love them so much and why I am willing to let them destroy my posture, take up too much room in my apartment, etc.

Because of their physicality, books have a sensuality to them. And for me, that makes them alive.

I not only love to hold books in my hand but I love to smell them and I love the sound of the pages turning and the little stains that happen on the paper.

Another friend of mine once recommended one of her favorite books, Antonya Nelson’s Female Trouble. I never finished it. I’m a slow reader, yes. But the book itself seemed cursed!

First, it went missing. I couldn’t find it anywhere in my studio apartment and I thought I was going to lose my mind until one day, I realized that the puppy spent an awful amount of his free time under the bed. I finally looked under it and saw that he had been gnawing on my Female Trouble!

Then, one evening, as I took gnawed Female Trouble into my bath, it slipped out of my hand, which never happens. The book just soaked up the water, unfurling like a fancy tea blossom. I grabbed the book and ran out to the balcony to leave it out to dry.

The next day, dried (and gnawed) Female Trouble had swollen to the size of a phone book. I couldn’t turn the pages to read it. I thought this book must be doomed; it seemed so alive.

And what about the bookstores and the libraries? In the city, those places, along with galleries and museums and theatres, may be the only non-denominational social spaces with a kind of intelligent and sacred quietude. How I love to walk through the aisles and place my fingers on the books and pull them out of their tiny spaces and push them back in as if not to disturb their silent and private lives.

I love the feeling of getting toward the end of a good book–the tiny number of pages between my fingers like a sliver.

One day, they’ll make Kindle smell like old books and perhaps they can even make them waterproof (consider the possibilities!), but until I can feel the pages, the inevitability and the character of their decay, I’m not interested.

(Kindle dies, too, I’m sure, but it just seems more out of my hands.)