Make no mistake: I am a devout fan of books.
When the first wave of e-readers came around, I did my share of lamenting that the feeling of holding a book in one's hands is something special and that it would be a shame if that became a thing of the past. (And I agree with my mother, who often says that the smell of a book is something special, too.) I still feel that way, too. But it wasn't until I got a Kindle for my birthday that I learned quickly how darn easy and handy a Kindle can be. I haven't quit buying or borrowing books entirely, and I don't think I ever will. But I can't deny that most of the books I buy now are via my Kindle.
(Get ready for a transition that seems abrupt but will make sense soon enough.)
My friend Sara - can I just refer to her as Sara now? I've written about her here enough - has been an ardent supporter of my 101 in 1,001 list, particularly #67, which involves attending arts and cultural events with a friend. (I started with setting a goal of at least three and have since boosted it to six, since attending an average of one cultural event per year struck me as an insignificant and, dare I say, ho-hum stretch.) She emailed me earlier in the month with an invitation to attend the Guthrie Theater's showing of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with her next week. I accepted enthusiastically!
I guess now's a good time to admit that I like to do homework. I got the idea that it would be fun to obtain a copy of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, since I've never read it, and finish it before seeing the play next week. But when I went online, I couldn't find a good version of it for the Kindle, and the short notice meant that there was no guarantee a hard copy would arrive in time to read it. The horror!
I regrouped, revisited my roots and trekked over to the good old local library. Sure enough, there was a copy of the play - as well as a ton of other Tennessee Williams plays - tucked way back in the stacks.
There were two copies, actually. Both were sweetly vintage, but one was so charmingly antique that I was scared I would wreck it somehow (not an irrational worry) and tucked it back on the shelf carefully. I grabbed the other one, flipped through it to see the font, and gasped with delight at what I saw inside the back cover.
It's thrilling to remember that someone leafed through this copy of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof a full five years before I was born - that the act of reading seems so personal, but the value and impact of a book is so collective. Buying a file for my Kindle is so streamlined and convenient, but the context of the book's history gets utterly lost, and so does that notion that an entire community has, over the course of several decades, already experienced this story that I'm about to experience. Isn't that a healthy message? Can't libraries just reinstate date-stamping already?