Thanks for the Memory

Only five boxes and two bags of books were awaiting me Tuesday morning, so people behaved with circumspection over the Memorial Day weekend. Either they read this blog with avidity and attention, or it was just too nice a weekend to spend hauling books.

A few things were mildly Smurfish, as befits Smurf Month, but I am really awaiting the arrival of a stuffed owl. This was promised to us some time ago, and I forgot all about it when I was discussing the possibility of a dead bird section at this year’s fair. We are not clear so far on whether this owl is in fact a former owl in restored condition or a plush toy. I’ll keep you posted.

I spent part of the weekend bringing a new computer up to speed, my previous one having given in to the miscreants who were lying in wait for computers using Windows XP. I did give some brief thought to venting my opinion of the whole operating system and mentioning that with books at least they don’t change the way you turn page every couple of months. But does the world really need another diatribe on the good points of books as opposed to the digital world?

I hope it does, because later in the day, to calm my nerves, I played a few card games on this new computer. I must freely admit an addiction to most of the card games loaded into these machines, and I also admit that it is easier to play just about any game (with the exception of tic-tac-toe or mumblety-peg) on a computer.

But when I was done, the computer popped up a little screen telling me how many games I had played, what percentage I had won, and how many minutes each game took.

THERE’S something a book won’t do. That copy of Ivanhoe will never tell you how many times you started it and gave up at page ten or so. The cover may fall off, but your copy of The Clue in the Old Cloche will NOT keep track of how many times you’ve read it, how many hours you have spent waiting to see if the heroine can get out of the handcuffs before the pressure cooker reaches critical mass, nor even how many times you guessed the wrong identity of the miscreant leaving the threatening letters. They have not yet come up with an edition of Moby Dick which will cheerfully inform you at the end “You understood 11% of what you just read.”

I know a lot of people who will not go anywhere without some form of computer, but can you really have a lasting relationship with someone so judgmental? You lose points if you click “Undo” so you can go back and put that Jack of Diamonds on the Queen of Spades. A book doesn’t keep score, so you can flip back as often as you like to try to remember whether Brick is the heroine’s fiance and Brock her brother, or vice versa.

Well, yes, there are those at the Book Fair who snicker at you for having left the front endflap at page 27, but I keep telling them that’s not necessarily where you left off. The dustjacket might have started coming off as you put the book in the box, and you just stuck the endflaps back any old how. And that bookmark at page 98 may just mean the book is so good you read it from that page to the end without stopping again.

I hear some of you sniffing that a book is just too low-tech to have much of a memory. Just check out this copy of Mountain Madness, with grease stains from the popcorn on the last eighty pages, the dampened pages where the hero’s dog dies, and the pages folded down during the blizzard when the hero and heroine have to huddle together for warmth. THAT, paprika popover, is a book with memories.

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