On books and hands

Books are very important to me. Yet, this is not a top ten list of my favorite books. What seems overwhelmingly important is the very idea of “book”, not the idea of any specific book. I have thousands of books, and some are more important than others, but they all signify the same thing: writing. It is the writing that is important, but I also need to stress that I am discoursing on the abstract idea of writing as it is practiced in hundreds of thousands of books, to greater and lessor degrees. Just as no one book has ever become my “be-all, end-all” of my existence, no one writer sits on the alter of the writing gods. Yes, some writers have more art than others, but some writers have more heart, others, more passion, still others, more pathos. It takes, however, hands to hold a book so that the writing may be read and appreciated (or despised and disdained). It took hands to write the text, perhaps holding a pen, perhaps tapping on a keyboard. With the digital age, the book has become a more abstract signifier in the sense that the body of the book has been removed from the scene of the crime. My digital reader can hold thousands of books, and many may be downloaded for free. Curiously, with the advent of the digital book, sales are up and reading is enjoying a new vogue of sorts. I prefer paper and a physical book, but hands can turn a digital page just as well as they can turn a paper leaf in a physical book. Books have meant different things to me at different times of my life, and the writing in those books has gone from murky to clear as I age. Having a book in my hand is often a comfort, and has frequently been my chief weapon against boredom and tedium while waiting endlessly to board a plane, to visit with a doctor. Having a book in my hand is like a visit from a new friend, or perhaps the return visit of an old friend? The words flow out across the page, and I mingle with the characters as they begin their journey again, searching for the sword, heading out to sea, traversing America, looking for the killer, fighting for their very lives, mixing a pitcher of Pimm’s Cup. The night is damp, the thunder rolls in across the plain, my Twins are losing another ballgame on the radio, and my book is open on the coffee table. I pick it up and begin to read, and the shadows creep in from the corners, I put my feet up and lean back. The night’s are long, but I am far from lonely, my hands on a book, and I am elsewhere.