Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Some things should happen on soft paper

I have a friend who named her children after literary figures—Beckett, for Samuel Beckett the playwright, and Harper after Harper Lee, author of "To Kill a Mockingbird", her one and only novel. Authors who have stood the test of time. This is about Harper Lee.

46 years after the publication of "To Kill a Mockingbird" Oprah received a letter from Ms. Lee on her history with and love of books. Not just reading, but books, the kind you hold in your hand. The kind with soft paper.

Below is an excerpt from the letter (what prompted her to do it? did Oprah write to her? were they already pen pals?). I highly recommend reading the whole letter, but this part rang a tuning fork in my heart:

"Now... in an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods, and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books. Instant information is not for me. I prefer to search library stacks because when I work to learn something, I remember it.

And, Oprah, can you imagine curling up in bed to read a computer? Weeping for Anna Karenina and being terrified by Hannibal Lecter, entering the heart of darkness with Mistah Kurtz, having Holden Caulfield ring you up — some things should happen on soft pages, not cold metal."
Harper Lee, May 2006


I should probably start a label for posts titled "In defense of the printed word". But also in a way I kind of don't need to always don my battle armor and charge out with a flag on a spear. Not because I'm fooling myself a la Don Quixote (Don? don armor? is that where the word came from, because only Dons wore armor?). Paper is here to stay. It may become a luxury item, but that's okay by me, it's better to stop destroying forests. But books are here to stay—sales of children's books are up, because let's face it, children love holding (and gumming, and ripping up) books. From that sheer fact alone I don't believe physical books will disappear.

Buy the hardcover version of To Kill a Mockingbird from Barnes and Noble, it's embossed with gorgeous endpapers!

Letter discovered on Letters of Note, whose tagline is "Correspondence deserving of a wider audience". 

[Sidenote: If only they could find a way to make digital toilet paper. Everyone buy Marcal because it's 100% recycled! Did you know most soft tissues and toilet paper are made from virgin Amazon forest trees? Because the paper is softer. I'll admit, those do feel so nice. But it's not worth it to me. My rear end can handle it. And when I get a cold I just aloe my nose.]

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