Rain, fog, fifty degrees and I'm runnin a low fever. There's a lotta pressure behind my eyes, makin it hard to read. I started sortin through my souvenir books after lunch, arrangin them by format and size -- since I don't have shelves yet, I'm stackin em on the floor, starting with the oversize hardcovers on the bottom, movin up through the regular 'D's, the 'C's, the little gift books, the trade paperbacks, the odd mass market, finally endin up with those tiny Shambhala pocket editions on the religion stack. Sixteen years, two publishers, a lot of memories.
I thought to myself, my god, suppose the Kindle had been invented a decade and a half earlier? All I woulda taken home was a little ugly white plastic device with a lotta miles on it. No color, no scribblings, no author dedications, no jackets (remember the battles we used to have over the jackets?), no broken spines when I'd thrown one of em against the wall, no forgotten receipts tucked away between pages, no hyperbolic pitch letters, no dog-ears, no effing way of measurin the parade of years.
So mebbe this is the chief function of books goin forward, actin as proof that your mind had been somewhere once. Memory markers. Signposts in a strange land. Evidence. The Digital Herd with their Big E-Britches and Divining Rods made that case over at the Marriott last year. Hey! Books are souvenirs, like pennants, mugs, or tee-shirts. Shite you stuff in the garage so when you die someone else gets to throw it out. Or tries to hawk as 'collectible.' Like Chuck Jones cels. Way the economy is tankin, there's a lot of that goin on.
Except up here by the lake, where no one reads nothin but takeout menus. Guy like Cholly'd be thinkin to himself, shoot, books make good fuel. Seein how fast that woodpile's been shrinkin this winter, you couldn't blame him. Even if you remember Fahrenheit 451 from high school and start feelin vaguely sentimental about the Life of Ideas or something.
One thing about the books in my stacks: if some arse-presenting Guardian of Right Thinking wants to take one of em from me, he's gonna have to come here and prise it out of my own dyin hands. On the Kindle, he just throws a switch somewhere out there along the Columbia River and -- whoosh! -- into the ether, baby, into the ether.
After quaffin an ounce of Jameson's, Quist used to tell me not to think on the future too much. "You gotta learn that prayer they teach you at AA. Only thing you can change is yourself, poot, concentrate on that and let the rest go." He may be right, but the body is a stubborn mule. It wants books, not plastic. It wants flesh, not pictures of flesh. It wants music that shimmies its way into the heart through the effing skin, not through some jive plastic membrane danglin out of an ear. You watch the old people down at St. Clare's, gapin and droolin in their chairs. You tell me the body isn't stubborn. Life is addictive, poot. Those people got nothin to say to us any more, do they?
Or do they?