With the popularity of readers really taking off just in the last year or two, this post over Steven Paul Leiva's This 'n That blog is more than timely.
I share many of Leiva's biases, no doubt in part because we are from roughly the same generation, but people coming along after us are going to see the world differently. He has produced a long, meditative, and I think wise and insightful post.
The book, what we are now calling the traditional book, “...a written or printed work consisting of pages glued or sewn together along one side and bound in covers,” has been both a more successful and less successful delivery system than the vacuum-packed can. It never alters the “taste” of its contents, but, because it is prone to wear and tear, mold and mildew, not to mention the evil of dust and the negligence of borrowers, it does not always have a long shelf life. However it is quite user friendly—portable with pages not difficult to turn, easy on the eyes depending on the type size, and usually of a warm, inviting feel. You can underline and write in the margins if you so choose to desecrate it. In essence, books travel well with us. Books can be boon companions. If you are a book reader—and who reading this blog wouldn’t be—books might well figure into highlights of your personal history. That book or series of books you shared with your best childhood buddy, say those Frazzeta cover-illustrated paperbacks of the Mars novels by Edgar Rich Burroughs; that beat up copy of Siddhartha you were reading while sitting around the collage quad that attracted the attention of that long-haired blonde beauty who looked just liked Michelle Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas; that Saul Bellow novel that kept dogging you when you were in your twenties—you loved it, you hated it, you loved it, you hated it—; that rare book of short stories from her favorite author that you “scored” in finding at a used book store and gave to her, her smile back convincing you that she was indeed the love of your life; those Dr. Seuss books you read out loud to your kids, acting them out in a gloriously foolish performance; that dark, dangerous, bloody serial-killer novel you read while sitting on a warm, sunny beach somewhere during your most wonderful vacation ever; that great jazz musician’s biography you read while on a long train trip, the train providing the rhythm section. You can remember the look, the feel, the touch, the cover, the heft of all of these books and you remember them with great fondness, yet isn’t it the content that really deserves to be part of your memory? Wasn’t the delivery system—the look, the feel, the touch, the cover, the heft—really just, dare I call it, an appendix to the content?
Smells can bring on a flood of memories, but are they memories of smells? The aroma of a great meal is delightful, but it is not the aroma that will nourish you.