Today, I begin a blog. A blog whose entries will likely be few and far between, and mostly self-serving in content, but regardless… here I am. I think I am probably here in denial. For the first time, I will not be participating in the mass migration of American youths (“youts” if you’re Joe Pesci) traveling from the pool to the classroom this fall. I am officially growed up. And sick as it may be, I have always loved writing assignments. Especially when I got to write about “me” (we singers always want “more me” in the mix). So today I join the masses of unread bloggers who write about themselves in the hopes that their unique combination of candor and wit will draw more than family members to their stories. I have given myself the writing assignment I will so miss this fall. Sick, I know.
Here’s another sick fact about me: I read every required reading book but one in all my English and writing classes all the way through school. That single utterly unreadable “classic” was Frankenstein. I read so little of it I can’t even remember why I despised it so. I also hated Metamorphosis and The Republic of Plato, but no matter.
It is for the books I loved that I grieve. Today I browsed the strewn shelves of a Borders in its final days. Unfortunately, the experience itself fell short of the reverent nostalgia I was anticipating, evoking more of the scene in Mean Girls where Lindsay is comparing the kids at the mall to animals around a watering hole than the library reveal in Beauty and the Beast. But it still held its poignancy. Especially so closely following the closing of one of my favorite Nashville spots, the two-location Davis-Kidd Booksellers, in December. It’s like Tom Hank’s big bad Fox Books AND Meg Ryan’s Shop Around the Corner both went under. (Is it ironic that they both loved and sold print books but communicated through electronic mail? Maybe they should have seen this coming…)
I visited Davis-Kidd before every school holiday when I would be flying home to New Jersey and needed reading material more stimulating than Sky Mall. I would browse what was new and featured upstairs, but the destination was always the basement. Down the stairs and to the left, behind the checkout desk, was the music section. Secluded and quiet, it provided a whole wall where music biographies, memoirs, reference books, and scores could be perused with ease. I spent hours (and money) there.
In school I liked to write about myself for two reasons: 1. I know myself pretty well. 2. No research necessary. But really, I’m just a fan of biography. Maybe I hope mine will mean something someday to someone, even if it’s only to my own hypothetically eventual offspring. But I treasure the time I’ve spent getting to know the lives of the musicians who have inspired me. I’ve read more biographies than I can estimate and today’s Borders scavenger hunt produced two more (plus an illustrated history of Pink Floyd). I’m a junkie. Someone come out with an official biography of Emmylou Harris, dammit!
But PLEASE, hurry and write it before I have to download it onto an e-reader of some variety. I want to turn the paper pages with my fingers. I want to smell them. I want to put her on the shelf between The Beatles and Johnny Cash. Or maybe between Rodney Crowell and David Bowie. I’ll keep her away from Keith Richards…
I judge books by the cover. I’ve picked up countless booked I’ve had no prior knowledge of simply because the cover was stunning. Or colorful. Or stupid. Some I’ve even purchased. I shudder to think of the hours I’ll have to spend on Amazon.com now that there is nowhere within a reasonable distance from my house for me to go and physically browse books. Real, live, paper and ink books.
There’s something about a story being printed on paper that gives it an added permanence and romance. It cannot be changed – typos, character flaws, and all. It’s all bound between two covers. That’s what makes a bookstore, a library, or even a bedroom bookshelf such a magical place. I’d like to have the option of marrying in a library someday. A la Carrie Bradshaw (minus the jilting and bird headpiece).
The hypocrisy of my new blogging does not escape me. Here I am mourning the demise of physical reading material and you are probably reading my words on a smart phone. It’s okay… I have one, too. But how are people going to marvel at my intelligence and spectacular musical taste if the cover of the book I’m reading isn’t plainly facing them across the doctor’s office? “Ah, why yes… Corn Flakes with John Lennon. Smart kid.”
I suppose I’m being a bit dramatic. Books will not disappear overnight. Bookstores certainly seem to be closing rapidly, but that doesn’t mean all books will spontaneously combust and cease to exist. I’m sure I’ll be able to continue reading my paper and binding books for years to come. It may mean the “youts” of the future will consider me technologically deficient. But that’s okay. I’ve been uncool before, I’m sure I can do it again.