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Buy Read Love

Sunday, June 06, 2010

On the road with too much technology



It seems I was on the road too long. Five days in New York — did I tell you about my problems with the booth? Okay, the show was great for us, absolutely invigorating—and I ended up quoted in The Dallas Morning News, which would have made my in-laws proud, except that by the time it appeared they were all in Houston, meeting me and Ms. E for a graduation-related reunion. (period) And that was the second part of the trip—Eating in Texas. I’d talk about the joy of being in Corsicana the last night of the trip, but that’s another subject.

Anyway, for a week and a half, I was trying to stay attached to the (widespread) office of Unbridled Books via the small screen of my Blackberry. Which is my point here.

The sales reports were tiny—I mean the typeface was. I could increase the focus/print size, but that only meant that what I saw was even more fragmented—pieces of reports. The ad proofs were illegible. The flash ads boiled down to a single opening frame.

I had trouble focusing on the map to Louis I. Kahn’s building in Fort Worth (the Kimbell Art Museum—my new favorite building (see photo). But the GPS app we downloaded was steady on; my complaint here is not—I say not—about technology.

My thoughts circle how fragmented my connections were to the world larger than my sweet immediate surround, most especially my connections to the written word. (An aside: Kahn’s conversations with Rice University students is available online.)

I did finish a fascinating manuscript on my e-reader. But that wasn’t enough. There was so little time to re-read Larry Levis's The Widening Spell of the Leaves, which I had in my satchel. When we got back, I picked up my copy of Elif Batuman’s The Possessed, just to hold a book in my hand and return to immersive reading….

And then Ms. E asked me, “Where’s that book you were reading out loud to me on the Santa Fe trip?”

There is something to being lost in time and space. My digitized word-life on the road just doesn’t . . . quite . . . take me there.

4 comments:

Joni Rodgers said...

Maybe key to moving forward in this brave new world is understanding this dynamic and the idea that different formats suit different reasons for reading.

(And how ironic that when I tried to comment earlier, blogger functions were out of commission.)

Kathryn Paterson said...

It's funny; as techie as I can be, I still value the hard copy of almost everything, and sometimes still compose by hand. I miss the tactile sensations of paper and pen (or pencil), and love the feel of a book in my hands at night. I've never been able to read in the car--get bad motion sickness when I do, so if I "read" on trips, it has to be audio.

I'm sure there will come a time when hard copy books are artifacts, but I hope we still have some years yet. For one thing, I already look at a computer screen so much that I can't imagine doing it for reading (other than blogs, etc). But then my friend loves her Kindle and takes it everywhere, so maybe it's better than I think it is.

Kathryn Paterson said...

By the way, great post. You really took us along with you. :)

Fred Ramey said...

Thanks, Kathryn.

I've been thinking that books are artifacts (in the sense different from the one you use). They are mementos of our mental and emotional lives. That's why we give books to people who matter to us--why books were the first holiday gifts--because they mean something to us personally (emotionally and, I guess, cognitively). Maybe that's why it feels so good to hold one, feels so good to turn a page: It's the making physical what otherwise isn't (story, including our own stories).

I wonder whether giving up the memento/heirloom aspect of "books" might actually require a sea change in the relationship between what we feel and what we hold....