In the year 2025, if man is still alive, I’m convinced that some snarky pundit will write a piece in the Starboogle eTimes, declaring that since the last bookstore on the planet has been driven out of business by Amaoozle (a subsidiary of Starboogle), the book simply cannot survive. He will proclaim that—since we can now dow7nload entire novels into our brains through jacks in the backs of our heads; into our mini-digi-nano PEUs (Personal Electronic Units); or into our HECs (Home Entertainment Centers)—books have outlived their usefulness. He will marvel at the fact that great works of literature; state of the art macrowave cookbooks; picture books for children; juicy biographies for the elderly; fantastical fantasies for teens; and self-help for the abused, sad and fat (who, he will point out, now constitute 74% of the population) can freely speed on the intergalactic information superhighway, unimpeded by pages, covers, bindings and spines. I imagine the pundit declaring that books, arguably the greatest invention in the history of civilization, have at last been swept under the rug of evolution, dinosaurs of the mind finally sinking into the tar pits of time.
Yes, he’ll argue, I know, people have been screaming about the death of the book for 100 years—ever since moving pictures captured the imagination of a nation, and Buster Keaton, a brilliant, illiterate comic with a great face of stone, became more famous than any writer of the time. Then it was the radio that was going to shoot the book through the heart. Then talkies. Then television. Then it was going to be the eBook. But finally, the pundit will roar, the
eRevolution is complete: We’ve thrown off the shackles of the past, and the book is stone-cold dead!
Right now, I’m sitting here with my brand spanking new hardcover copy of Joan Didions “The Year of Magical Thinking,” and I am filled with a tingly anticipation that is, dare I say, magical. I don’t want this book jacked into the back of my head. I want to hold it in my hands. I love the way it feels as I hold it, the obvious care and craft it took to make it, and, perhaps most of all, the giddy intoxication I get from that new-book smell as I open and bury my nose in it. I can’t wait to dive in, to drink and savor and swim around in this beautiful sea of words. I’ll take it with me when I go to my acupuncture appointment and read it in the lobby as I wait for Dr. Lum to stick needles in me. I’ll take it with me on the subway and be just one of the many humans hurtling underground with our eyes buried in our books. But most fun for me, I’ll curl up with it and my cat tonight as I nestle under my covers and leave my life behind.
So, in the year 2025, when you hear some brilliant know-it-all say, with the unwavering certainty of the self-righteous and ignorant, that the book is a dead, do me a favor and go buy a book.