Saturday, March 03, 2012

Books, Bags and Barnaby Rudge

I was going past the Library yesterday, heading towards the Moray Place post office (crowded as usual, now that two post offices I used to use have been closed) when I found myself walking alongside the librarian who does the Interloans.   She commented that I hadn't used the Interloan service in a while, and I had to admit I hadn't.  (I used to be always ordering books through Interloan when I was in my last job.)  I said I was tending to read the Kindle mostly, at which she tutted a little (rightly so for one whose trade is in real live books), and that I was carrying my library of books in my pocket at the moment.

For many years I carried a backpack with me pretty much wherever I went, and there would always be at least one book inside, if not two.   I was reminded of this because the people who sell Jansport mesh backpacks have one style of backpack called the Book Pack.  I think basically it's just a backpack for school kids to carry their books and such in, but I've never owned a Book Pack, and am rather tickled by the idea of it.

When I went to Sydney a couple of weekends ago I didn't take a single book with me.  In the past I would always have had at least two or three - even for a weekend.  In fact, I don't know that I took any books to the States with me when we went over for my son's wedding - although I did bring one back.   Instead of paper books, I've been carrying the Kindle.  One of its many advantages is that if you find you're not enjoying one of the books you've got on it, you can easily switch to something else you haven't yet read that's sitting in your 'library' of books.  Or you can even dip again into something you've already read.

And another advantage I'm finding (and found on the dimly lit airplanes) is that you can crank up the font size until it's comfortable for your eyes.  At night I often read with a bigger font size than in the daytime - it overcomes the issue of older eyes struggling to focus on smaller print.

And a third advantage is that you don't have to hold a tightly bound book open against itself.   I'm slowly reading my way through one of Les Murray's poetry collections (The Vernacular Republic) at the moment, and apart from the print being too small (though not unreadable) the binding is very tight.  It can't be forced open too far otherwise it'll split - another disadvantage of tight binding.  However, the not inconsiderable advantage of real books is that you can take them in the bath without trepidation  -though I've never dropped a book in the bath yet.  I'm a lot more wary about taking the Kindle in the bath, though I have tried it.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I finished reading Ivanhoe recently.  It was the first Walter Scott book I'd read, and while some of it was quite gripping, some of it was rather turgid in style.   Since it's Dickens' bicentenary this year, I thought I should catch up on that writer again, and am now reading Barnaby Rudge, one of the few Dickens titles I've never read.   What a glorious difference!  Occasionally the more upper class characters ponce on a bit in their language, and Barnaby himself (a person with some intellectual disability, as we'd say now) has a tendency to the rhapsodic, but for the rest it's like a wholesome meal, or a dip in a cool stream on a hot day, or going to the circus after listening to a whole CD of serial music by Webern.  Dickens' prose is so alive, and his characters so delightfully drawn - and furthermore they speak in their own inimitable Dickensian way, a style that no other writer has ever quite achieved.  Many of them have that joyously bubbling humour in their speech even when they're at their most serious.  As you can see, I'm thoroughly enjoying this book.  (Sorry, Sir Walter!)

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