I’m one of a dying breed: going the way of the Dodo, the tailfin, and the cocktail napkin. When people like me are gone (and we’re really going; I’ve finally reached the age where I can wrap my few remaining brain cells around that one), much of our world will go with us.
I love books. I love handling them, riffling their pages, admiring the design, the dust jacket, the binding, their smell, their feel, how they look with their sisters all-in-a-row on shelf after shelf.
I love arranging my own books. Six of them now. In English, Chinese, Spanish, Hebrew, Swedish, Czech, French…bedad, I’ve lost count of the translations. I grieve that my books are all in storage, packed away in boxes, waiting in the dark for the day I once again own a shelf. Which implies owning a house. Or near enough. Which surely means having a home. Having a home is my New Years wish.
Enough of that.
I was given a Kindle for Christmas. A funny flat grey thing. With buttons.
With help (of course) I got it registered or assigned or acknowledged…surely it’s one of those. With help, I learned the rudiments. I can now download a book. Which has become two books, then five, then—have you any idea how many books are fa-fa-fa-free from amazon? Not the new ones, oh no, but the good ones: the classics, the forgotten gems, the newly discovered oddities, so many works of ancient philosophy. It’s an Alexandria of free books.
I press the button called Home and up comes a growing list of books I don’t have packed away. I found Talbot Mundy! Only known to me by one book long long ago found somewhere, old even then, I went crazy nuts for it. Om: The Secret of Abhor Valley. Which now resides in one of those cold dark boxes in cold dark storage.
Mundy was all the rage a hundred years or so ago. He sold then as much as yet another vampire book would today. The King of the Khyber Rifles. Black Light. The Winds of the World. Compared to these, vampires are dull stuff. Talbot Mundy was a veritable genius and to follow his ripping yarns highly spiced with dazzling mysticism made his readers only a little less so. It took imagination to write those books and it took imagination to read them.
Last night I found The Yellow Wallpaper. My own book, Houdini Heart, has been compared to it…favorably. So to see its name on offer made my ears ring. It’s very short but wonderfully disturbing. Written in 1892 by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, it’s a strong, terrifying, symbolic tale of how women were once treated by “caring” men: their “devoted” husbands, fathers, brothers. That is, if they were rich. (For the poor female or a member of the lower classes, go directly to Charles Dickens.) Devouring Charlotte’s tale in one gulp, I found it amazingly similar to Houdini Heart in many ways. But the huge difference lies in the female narrator’s essential character. In The Yellow Wallpaper the woman is virtually helpless, in bondage to men and to how she is perceived by them. (Freud really helped out there. Be interesting to know how many women he drove to despair, insanity, even suicide.) In Houdini Heart, the woman is a creative master of her descent (or ascent) into, ah…your guess is as good as mine.
To read Gilman is to MUCH better understand the incredible strength it took to be an Emily Dickinson, a Jane Austin, a George Sand…and so many more. How should I have fared then? Would I have done as my Mary Magdalene did, dressed as a man so I might learn and survive?
Or would I have shot myself?
Must get back to searching for free books. Oh, how a Luddite loves her Kindle. Never thought it could happen to me. But then I resisted computers too. And classes in Creative Writing. That last one was a good idea.