I don’t know how you feel about books, but to me, the prospect of having nothing to read is right up there with being deprived of oxygen. So whenever I move, I immediately make a beeline for the public library.
Sadly, Seville’s public library turned out to have a paltry supply of books, most of which looked like outcasts from private collections: dog-eared mysteries, popular novels several generations out of date, and obscure nonfiction titles that were probably written by the former owner’s great-uncle. There were two shelves of English-language volumes, mostly by Agatha Christie. I love Agatha Christie, but she’s not an ideal candidate for rereading; knowing who did it at the outset kind of takes the challenge out of the puzzle.
I managed to scrounge up a few titles to check out from time to time, but the choices only grew more disappointing. Then one day I returned a book a week late and was reaching for my wallet to pay the fine when the librarian explained, more in sorrow than in anger, that the penalty for such a transgression was having my library card suspended for three weeks. I was shocked and mortified. To me, being banned from a library was like hearing the tribe had voted to abandon me on the hillside for the wolves. I slunk away, feeling like an outcast and a criminal, and never returned.
It was about this time that a few forward-thinking friends started buying Kindles and Nooks, but I hated the idea of electronic books. I love the feel of paper, the crinkle of turning pages, the smell of the ink and, in my own books, the coffee stains, pressed flowers and other reminders that this book and I share a past.
That attitude lasted about 15 minutes after Rich bought me a Kindle. I realized that I was just like the folks back in 1455 who said, “Printed Bibles? To me, it’s just not the word of God if it isn’t hand lettered by monks on sheep vellum with gold curlicues and little illustrated scenes tucked into the capital letters.” It’s the content that counts. As long as it’s delivered in readable form, the curlicues and sheep vellum really aren’t vital to the process.
As my book Dancing in the Fountain gets launched over the next few weeks, I’ll be interested to see how many people buy “real” books and how many opt for the e-reader edition. I already know that I’m giving one of the first printed copies as a gift to my library of origin in Menlo Park, California, where I checked out books from the age of 8 to 18. It’s a tiny token of my appreciation for the countless hours of pleasure and inspiration I found there. Thanks, Menlo Park Library!
I'm an American writer living in lockdown in Seville, Spain with my husband, Rich.
My posts contain tips for living more comfortably in quarantine and keeping our mental equilibrium in these unsettling times.
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