Monday, May 16, 2011

Do You Kindle?

I love books...the smell of books, the feel of books. I love holding a book in my hands, especially a new one with a pristine cover. I love fanning the pages of a new book and inhaling. There's nothing quite like the excitement of getting a new book and the anticipation of sitting down to read it. And we won't even talk about opening a box containing more than one new book and the delicious agony of trying to decide which one to start first...or the quiet thrill of walking into a bookstore. Not everyone shares this love affair, but those of you who are kindred know exactly what I mean.

Because I love the physical book so much, I wasn't convinced an e-reader would ever be a good fit for me. But I recently received a Kindle from my eldest child as a gift. The first book I downloaded was Bram Stoker's Dracula. It was free and, as I had never read it, I figured it was as good a place as any to take the Kindle out for a test drive. I'm not an electronic gadget type of person, but it was easy to set up and easy to use...even for me. There are a lot of features I haven't used yet, but I expect learning will be fun.

Because the font size can be changed, a simple adjustment enabled me to read without as much eye strain, and even without reading glasses. I don't know why, but I think I was able to read faster. Perhaps it only seemed faster because I was able to read for a more sustained period of time. Once accustomed to the feel of the Kindle in my hands, and getting lost in the story, I forgot I wasn't reading a glue and paper book. The sensation of being transported was every bit the same.

On the second day, I sat outside on the patio, and found it very easy to read in bright sunlight. Like a paper book, however, care must be taken. Outside the birds were chirping, the sun was shining, there was a breeze. Suddenly the dog jumped the fence and ran down the street. I put the Kindle on the deck chair and ran after him. I forgot about it; it rained. Early the next morning, I let the dog back out on the patio and to my horror I saw my Kindle still on the chair, covered with drops of rain from the night before. I was lucky. I figure that since its designers knew the device would be read outside, at places like the beach, they tried to make it somewhat impervious to weather. I am grateful to them for that, but it was a wake-up call. Instead of losing one book to the elements, it could have been a very expensive mistake. (Especially since I would never have admitted the blunder to my son; he'd have been so disappointed. I would have been forced to buy another Kindle to take its place rather than "come clean" and my secret would have been carried on my guilty conscience to my grave.)

I have since downloaded many more free titles by the likes of G.K. Chesterton, Louisa May Alcott, Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, P.G. Wodehouse, and E.L. Voynich. Within seconds, I can increase my classics library ten-fold without spending a dime. And since the Kindle is so light and easy to carry, I always have it with me and always have something really good to read, just in a literary diabetic who has to keep blood sugar levels stable. But, as much as I have found a new thing to love, I have also come to the firm belief that the physical book will remain alive and well.

Electronic readers have their own limitations. For instance, I miss the dust jackets. Let's be honest. I will be making a trip to Barnes & Noble to purchase Medium Raw in hardback, not the least reason being the delicious picture of Anthony Bourdain on the cover, which I will invariably clutch to my bosom repeatedly. There are many joys in reading. Drooling over a "hot" author is one of them. There is also a satisfaction that comes with shelves groaning under the weight of books. It is the same satisfaction one has in opening the door to a well-stocked pantry: jeweled jars of jams, and pickles, and home-canned tomatoes, and covered bins of pastas and bottles of sauces...lovely vistas of largesse...the comfort that comes with the knowledge that there will be sustenance.

I just purchased my first non-free Kindle book: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. At $9.99 it was hardly a splurge, although it felt like one. It's easy to get used to "free."

I could be wrong, but I do not see the end of the physical book on the horizon. Nevertheless, the Kindle's Welcome Page says, "We hope you'll quickly forget you're reading on an advanced wireless device and instead be transported into that mental realm readers love, where the outside world dissolves, leaving only the auhtor's stories, words, and ideas." That much, it does.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Creating A Monster And Other Pursuits

[Tap...tap...tap....Pssst.] This is The Curious Reader speaking to you in hushed and muffled tones from the confines of a little dialog box buried somewhere inside blogspot[dot]com. Grad is off doing goodness knows what while I languish. No one to speak to, nothing to snack on, and no vodka with which to make Cosmopolitans. Oh, sure...create me and send me out into the worldwide web, give me a taste of all the goings on in the blogosphere, let me see the bright lights and hear the lively conversation, and then suddenly and without any warning walk away and jolly it up without me. What is it, Grad? Was I sucking up all the attention? Was I having just a little too much fun for your liking?

Ladies and gents, please ignore that little blog-beast behind the curtain. Truth be told, TCR, as much as I love her, is a voracious attention fiend, always tugging at my elbow and demanding to be heard. Discipline isn't her strong suit and neither is sitting quietly in meditation (something she needs to learn and which might do her some little bit of good). With her it's always talk, talk, talk - and I quite frankly get weary just thinking about what she might spout off about next.

I am always promising myself some time to explore different horizons and drink from a different cup. But I haven't had a chance to do any of those things. TCR won't appreciate it (since the only thing she need worry about is unloading what is on her semi-clever mind), but I do have a job that has kept me very busy of late - a fact that my banker, bartender and bookie appreciate. Actually, I don't have a bartender or a bookie but I think it makes me sound more intriguing to suggest I do, don't you?

However, lest you think I am just one note, I've been up to something else. I don't want to say anything more, since I believe in jinxes, but it involves stringing words together. I've been a little busy with that. Oh, but there's more.

Did you know that there was such a thing as Home Farming Day? Neither did I. As background, sadly I had to have three large trees removed from my property: two lovely magnolias and one eucalyptus. Along with the trees went a very large holly bush that stood about 8 feet tall. They were crowding the house and their lovely branches were rubbing against my brand new roof. The eucalyptus tree was dripping its fragrant sap all over it. They had to go. Nevertheless, when the arborist came with his crew, I had to leave. I just couldn't bear watching them kill my trees. As I drove away, my throat felt as though it was stuffed with a hot mitten. But when I returned to the scene, a chink of light filtered into my dark mood and I started dreaming dreams. There was suddenly sunlight for a vegetable garden! One small drawback. The sunny area was in the front of the house, not in the back, and we have restrictions in the neighborhood that involve curb appeal. I threw caution to the wind and decided that I'd plant my farm smack dab in the front of the house and let the complaints fall where they may.

A trip to the hardware store (which, by the way, had just expanded it's garden center) was in order. And now, instead of boxwood shrubs along the front walkway, like everyone else, I have broccoli, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, poblano peppers, cucumbers, cayenne peppers, basil, Thai basil, and bell peppers. I checked my darlings this morning and found two very tiny baby tomatoes and one small, still green cayenne pepper. The zucchini plants have blossoms as do the eggplant and the poblanos. The broccoli is growing tall but as yet no sign of buds. I am a little concerned about the cukes, however. They're looking a little puny. There are also no signs of neighborhood unrest over Farmer Grad's little experiment. If it stays that way...and I have a bumper crop...I am not adverse to sharing.

So, you see, with work and farming and "something else" I haven't paid very much attention to TCR, and it is simply driving..her...mad. I hate to even brush by in thought the possibility of...should I speak it...retaliation. No, ridiculous. Even you think I should unplug my computer before turning out the light at night? Sleep with one eye open? Hmmm. Oh, tut tut. Silly, silly Grad. TCR is my creation, after all. Merely my alter ego. I mean, it isn't like that "Hal" computer or that horrid "Chuckie" doll, right? Right. Not to worry. Well, I must run. Time to mulch.

Heh, heh. You think so, do you Grad? Sleep well, my friend. Sleep well.