The Written World Revisited

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After a wicked bout of writer’s block and an overall feeling of malaise, I was inspired by two separate moments this weekend.

First, on Friday, I decided to make a shopping list in advance of a trip to the grocery store. My husband was pleased with this uncharacteristic foresight on my part, hopeful that it would reduce the risk of me bringing home random impulse buys, such as five different types of cheese, or the odd eggplant.

What happened next intrigued him. Setting my iPad on the table, I reached over to lift my netbook and grab the notepad beneath it. I then rummaged through various drawers and shelves in search of a pen. “You’re going to make a list on a piece of paper?” he asked incredulously. “It’s the best way to do it.” I replied, as if the most obvious logic had escaped him.

Fast forward (right through a VERY whirlwind, beer-spattered St. Patrick’s Day) to earlier today, when I managed to catch up on some blog reading, social networking, and general internet stalking. Perusing my newsfeed on Facebook, I stumbled upon my friend Lesley’s post about something to do with the East End Book Exchange.

I have known Lesley since college. She was a fellow traveler during my time in Europe and a cohort in our race through the Vatican, amongst other adventures. I’d been mildly monitoring Lesley’s posting on this topic over the past few months, and finally my curiosity got the best of me. After some additional probing of the world wide web and an exchange of messages with Lesley, I gleaned that she has gone and started her own small business — an independent used bookstore — in pursuit of a very specific dream — to make books more available to people.

These events may seem unconnected, but they sparked in me a couple of thoughts.

1) It is SO easy to just not write anymore.

First, the pen and paper are becoming obsolete, illustrated by my husband’s marveling at my use of them to make a shopping list. Next, it will be the keyboard, as my iPad has shown me… It is very easy to flip through apps and bookmark items, but impossible to type without misspelled words and grammatical errors. And I say that as an English major. The exercise of forming a sentence and putting it on paper, or on a screen… it’s just often easier to avoid the effort altogether.

2) It is equally easy to never buy an actual book.

I have already written about my love of books, so I promise this is not a repeat… Writing issues aside, I love my iPad for the ability it gives me to read everything — the news, magazines, blogs, tweets, posts, and yes, books — all in one place. Visually and functionally, it has changed my way of obtaining and processing information. But to Lesley’s story and the concept of the book… What is lost in not having the actual, physical, thing?

I grew up with books stacked precariously on every level surface in my room. I worked in the library in college, stowing away in a remote corner of the third floor to leaf through pages as I filed. My first date with my husband was a trip to a local bookstore to wander the sections and point out things that interested us. Books serve as decorations and paperweights; they kill spiders; they are folded, bent, scribbled on, and hidden away when the story gets too scary. The aesthetic quality of a book is not something that my iPad can replicate, and despite all the exciting technology, I wonder what we are missing in this most recent modern shift of having everything at our fingertips, yet nothing tangible.

What does it all mean? I am no closer to having an idea. But it’s nice to be writing about it again!

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