Wednesday, January 27, 2010

From The Bookcase

I reflected today that the word bookcase might just become an anachronism in my lifetime, mightn’t it? One doesn’t need a whole case to store an electronic book. A singular bookshelf would do, and not a very large one, either.

That seems like a shame somehow. I am very pleased with my new Kindle – it’s rather like having one of those IV’s in my arm, where one squeezes a trigger and gets an instant morphine fix - but I still like real bound books. (Although I admit, my office would be considerably easier to navigate if I did not have knee-high stacks of books on most of the available floor space. It goes without saying that I have bookcases on every inch of available wall space and that those shelves are very, very full.)

Still, I try to be optimistic about it. I imagine that people who read from parchment scrolls probably thought those newfangled printing presses were an indication of the End Times, too.

But for today, a couple of books I like that are not available on Kindle. Just to keep things even.

I'm currently reading this book: Alphabet Juice: The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret Parts, With Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory, by Roy Blount.

This book is a word person’s pornography. It’s sort of hard to describe other than that, except to say that it’s written in dictionary-style, which means it’s a book you can pick up and nibble for a few pages at a time. And that’s handy.

Speaking of writers I enjoy - like Roy Blount - I unearthed my battered copy of this book the other day: Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady, by Florence King. It’s an autobiography about the author’s childhood and young adulthood in the nineteen-forties and fifties.

I like auto/biographies in general, but I really like this one. It’s funny as hell, and as smart and often as stinging as a whiplash. (Also hilarious: Southern Ladies and Gentlemen.) Ms. King was a curmudgeon long before being a curmudgeon was cool, and she represents the Platonic ideal - so rarely attained by we mortals – of snark.

But it’s more than just funny. If I had to point to books I read as a young woman that had an effect on who I am now, Ms. King’s memoir would be listed high among them. I am deeply grateful to Ms King for impressing upon my soft young mind that one could be a sexual outlaw without ever being, you know, trashy about it. She did that economically and yet with vivid example, with lines like, “No matter which sex I went to bed with, I never smoked on the street.”

A role model indeed.

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