While I sat at Fran’s eating breakfast I read a few pages of Catherine Gildener‘s Too Close To The Falls. After a few pages a woman, maybe a few years younger than me, who’d been sitting across from me with (I assume) her boyfriend/husband, came over to my table. She told me she’d read the book and loved it, but had never seen anyone else reading it before. I told her I couldn’t take credit for unearthing the obscure find, that it had been recommended by my writing instructor Michelle Berry years before (who I believe had reviewed it for the Globe) and after keeping it on my shelf for six winters I was finally getting around to it. We talked about the fantastic stories Gildener told of her childhood, and wondered how such tales could be real. She apologized for interrupting my breakfast, told me she hoped I would enjoy the rest of the book as much she did, and went back to her table.
This, to me, is the real benefit of the paper book. I see no advantage to the convenience of the medium, compared to an e-book or reading online, but what I’ve found is that people will often come over and talk to me about a book, because they see it as a shared emotional experience. Normally, as an introvert, strange people striking up conversations with me is akin to getting mugged, but in these cases the conversation is about the book, not about me or them, so I don’t mind.
In fact, I wish there was an equivalent for music. Each day on my way to and from work I see hundreds of people with headphones snaking out of their bags and pockets and I wonder what they’re listening to. I assume they’re all listening to the same formulaic, familiar music that infects radio and most iPods, but what about the exceptions? For every Rainer Maria Rilke you spot in a sea of John Grisham and Deepak Chopra there must be a similar musical outsider. How great would it be to see that the baby boomer in a golf shirt is listening to the new Frightened Rabbit? Or that the punk girl carrying a skateboard is listening to Blind Willie Johnson? Or that the accountant with the CostCo briefcase is listening to T-Rex? I feel like every day I’m missing a dozen shared emotional experiences contained in pairs of headphone wires.
[tags]catherine gildener, michelle berry, rainer maria rilke, frightened rabbit, blind willie johnson, t-rex[/tags]