How was your Christmas? Was Santa Claus nice to you? I have something cool. Well, not for Christmas, which we don’t celebrate, being Jews, but for Hanukkah almost a month ago, which seems to be part of another time. The last breath of the pre-Omicron company. A dozen people home for the beer and the kids, latkes and songs.
My wife bought me a Kindle, in accordance with her constant plan to force electronic devices on me that I would never buy for myself because I am morally opposed to them. It started 20 years ago with my first cell phone (remember a world without cell phones? Neither do I). At the time, I was wondering if I should keep the gift. Now, if I leave the house without my phone, which never happens, I feel like I walked outside without pants.
Kindle seemed contrary to my bookish personality. Named in a sly tribute to “Fahrenheit 451” and his book-burning firefighters (just kidding; some grandiose antics from Jeff Bezos about igniting a reading revolution), Kindles aren’t new, but introduced in 2007. My wife has had one for a few years (a gift from me, give the lady what she wants).
She sang her praises. But I resisted. It would be another device that I would have to master and carry and keep charged. But two years after COVID started, I’ll take all possible distractions. I nodded.
I decided to start my e-reading adventure with “The Age of Innocence” by Edith Wharton. It seemed like a visit to a more elegant era, when people gathered in rooms.
This is where the gift aspect was important. Left on my own, I would have given up halfway through the process of checking a book out of the library and downloading it, which sometimes looked like a tax return. But it was a gift from my wife.
And here is why I am writing this. If you were to ask me ahead of time to imagine what the benefits of Kindle could be, I’d be talking about saved forests, or carrying an entire library in one piece of circuitry, that sort of thing. In addition, they illuminate; you can read in the dark.
Nowhere near. The advantage of a Kindle is that you can search for words easily. Who knew? None of that, close the book, get up, look at a dictionary, turn the pages.
With the Kindle, just touch the enigmatic word (with your right hand. Touch with my left; what I first tried, being left-handed, didn’t work. But the right did. technology.). The definition appears.
And “The Age of Innocence” contains many words that I had never seen before, and I have seen many: “overweight”, “priestly”, “valetudinaire” (breast, priestly, hypochondriac).
In addition, they are light. My Kindle (officially an 11th generation Kindle Paperwhite, fifth iteration, which looks like a character straight out of Edith Wharton. “Kindle Paperwhite and Newland Archer entered the opera box …”) It weighs 7 , 3 oz. I can easily hold it in one hand, spreading my thumb, index and middle fingers apart in a small easel.
As if to convey this benefit, when I got the Kindle, the University of Minnesota Press sent me a wonderful new book, “Louis Sullivan’s Idea” by Chicago cultural historian Tim Samuelson and Chris Ware, cartoonist. meticulous, certainly a creative pairing.
A deep dive into the life and times of Chicago’s first great architect, the book also weighs 5.25 pounds. It’s heavy.
I found myself reading Kindle more and less “The Louis Sullivan Idea”, even though it is a fascinating and bizarre album about Sullivan’s tortured life and incredible work.
The books will still be there, in the sense that the lutes are still there. You can train to be a luthier and build your own lute, then learn to play and play Renaissance tunes at your leisure. Or you can just pop in a pair of AirPods, plug “lute music” into Apple Music, like I just did, and listen to Andrei Krylov play on his “Lute & Guitar Music of Renaissance Holland, Ger …” and here is the title is cut off and cannot be viewed.
The modern dilemma at a glance. Technology wins. You might as well kiss her, the best you can. Your phone will play beautiful lute music at 4 a.m. while you write your column. Its good. But there are also losses; someone decided that “Lute & Guitar Music of Renaissance Holland, Ger …” was enough, thank you. Navigating this bewildering world can be a challenge for our humanity, or for what remains of humanity.