Simone de Beauvoir

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Inscribed, Signed, or Downloaded; that is the question

I have always loved reading.  Vividly I can recall reading The Secret Garden and being so engrossed that during one summer evening's trip to McDonald's, I begged my parent to have the family eat in the car so I could continue reading.  Today, I can't recall the exact point of the story which kept me so engaged, but I can recall with a sour taste in my mouth the combination of pickle and mustard that jolted me from the pages.

My first childhood memory of McDonald's was having someone approach my father and taking down our order on a pad of paper.  I smile as I recall my young sister, maybe four or five years of age, confidently telling our teenaged waitress she wanted "a hot dog with ketchup."  I digress.

As a result of this passion for reading, I have joined a number of book clubs--and had the tote bags to prove it until they took over storage closets and were donated to Goodwill or the nearby thrift store benefitting a charity.  To me, membership in such clubs had its privileges, as the expression goes:  great reading and a bargain!  A zillion books for $.99 plus shipping and handling, of course. 

I've moved a time or two or three and the easiest boxes to pack were those containing books.  Small piece of free advice, here, dear reader:  always pack books in small boxes so that they are manageable.  Unpacking them made each new residence feel like home.  Once my shelves were stocked with my books, it seemed as if I'd lived in the house forever. 

One of my favorite rooms EVER was in the movie Beauty and the Beast in which Belle must climb a ladder to reach a book on the upper shelves.  If I'm not mistaken, Professor Henry Higgins also had such a room in his home in My Fair Lady.  It is my goal to have a room such as this one day.

The oldest book I own is Living Free by Joy Adamson, the sequel to Born Free.  Its jacket is tattered and lists the price as a whopping $5.95.  This hardcover, first edition, has a copyright of 1961.  These books tell the story of Elsa the lioness that Joy and her husband, George, raise and eventually return to the wilds of Africa.  My copy was that of my grandfather who died when I was a child of five.  Not only does the book hold sentimental value, it also reminds me of a childhood dream:  to go on an African safari.  I had seen the movie and decided that I was my generation's Joy Adamson.  As such, my dream developed into an obsession as witnessed by the massive quantity of stuff animals lions (each bearing his or her own name), lion-themed needlework projects, and photos of lions nicely decorating my lavender and lilac colored bedroom. 

I have two other books which remain sentimental favorites:  Lucy Gayheart and  Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather.  These paperbacks were given to me as a "Get Well" gift many years ago by my high school English teacher, Frank Tassone.  It had been a number of years since I'd been a student of his, but he'd heard I was ill and sent the gift to my home.

My book collection now is no longer vast, but significant.  The books I purchase and keep have meaning for me, as is typical for most avid readers.  My inscribed books are highly-prized.  Former New York Mayor Ed Koch personally inscribed a note in his book, Mayor, to me as did Mark Bryan (The Prodigal Father), Bonnie Robinson (He/She/Eye), Tracey Sutton (The Assignment), Anne Purcell (Love & Duty), and Deborah Smith (The Crossroads Cafe  and On Bear Mountain).  I do have a number of books that were simply autographed (Brett Butler, Elizabeth Boyle, Billy Roper, and Amy Blackmarr, among others). 

I have books that have inspired me on a variety of levels.  Ann Hood's The Knitting Circle had me glued to in an effort to learn to knit.  I have, by the way, learned the craft.  Need a scarf?  From Baghdad, With Love was the reason why we chose a German Shepherd for our family pet.  On a more personal note, he's just not that into you by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo has been read a time or two for obvious reasons.  The Last Lecture ~ I DARE you to admit that book left you untouched. . . and dry-eyed. 

I've shared this inventory with you not to impress you (but feel free to be, if you'd like), not to ask you to send me an autographed copy of your own book (again, feel free to do so, if you'd like), but to have you consider the impact e-readers will have on such treasures as an autographed book.  It saddened me to think that such events as author signings are becoming rare.  Now you can befriend your favorite author in facebook.  I proudly list Elizabeth Boyle as my facebook friend ~ have I impressed you?  I follow other authors on Twitter.  It's my dream they'll follow me ~ just to see what their competition is up to :-)

Then again, is it possible that e-readers will add to the value of such a rare item as a book?   Will the elimination of books require me to take out a serious amount of Homeowner's Insurance?  Do I need a security system strictly for my bookcases?

This post is not to discourage e-reading.  At this point I have not developed an opinion either way on the devices, and, even if I had, I wouldn't impose it on you, my reader.  I just know how much I treasure my autographed books and how I can't get Kitty Kelly to autograph her latest work, Oprah,  if it's only available on an e-reader.

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