Books will someday disappear and become a memory for old people and a concept that young people will never understand. Imagine showing a 9 year old child Pong, one of the very first video games that challenged and entertained so many of us as adults. They would look at us as if we were mentally challenged and unable to negotiate the intricacies of modern gaming where athletes look like they are in your living room swinging a bat or dunking a basketball.
In the meanwhile, I am happy to be young enough and old enough to enjoy the choice between hard and virtual versions of a book. For now I am still choosing hard, paper, pulp which I can hold in my hands and turn the pages with my fingertips. That may change but here is one reason I like my books on a shelf in the bookcase.
In the process of moving my office from one room to another I packed up all the books. While putting them back on the shelves I found a collection of books by Milan Kundera, most of which I probably read in the 1980s. I picked one, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, and took it into my hands. Randomly I opened to a page and read a paragraph about 2/3 of the way.
"My talk with the taxi driver gave me sudden insight into the nature of a writer's concerns. The reason we write books is that our kids don't give a damn. We turn to an anonymous world because our wife stops up her ears when we talk to her."
I don't recall the plot or characters of this book. Obviously it's time for me to read it again. That's one reason why I like to have my books where I can touch them. The other is that most of the books I buy and keep are so well written that there are sentences and paragraphs that can be read independently, still have meaning, and be relevant all at once.
In this particular case, I've been struggling with the question of why I write and whether my writing is important to anyone but me. Do I have something significant to say in a novel? I don't know. Can I write a sentence or paragraph that has an impact on a stranger like this one did on me tonight? I don't know, but that alone is something worth striving for.
I've often wondered if other writers read the way I do, in small bites--sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph--or if they swallow a book whole and digest it in its entirety. Apparently many nibble at the syllables and words and savor every morsel as documented here and on many other websites and yes, even in paper/pulp hard cover and soft cover books.
Excerpts from Leroy Cooper's memoir as told to me during conversations that took place during the 2 years we knew each other. I also write humor, flash fiction, celebrity interviews, real and made up stories--see if you can guess which are which.