By Russel D McLean
I don't know - I really don't - whether to be amused or worried by this.
Yes, books as decoration.
I worry that its not just the books that are becoming decoration. I am no technophobe, but I have to wonder if the way we use the new technology lends itself so well to long, complex and attention-demmanding storytelling. Can we really read a novel length work on a device that allows us to switch within seconds to some other distraction? I'm writing this post with six windows open, all doing different things. I have research windows, story windows, email windows, and this blog... and I'm jumping between them all as I write this post. Fracturing my thoughts.
Would I be able to understand a full length novel working this way?
I don't think so. Not with the same depth of understanding, anyway.
Just as worrying in the article is this quote:
"I understand there are interior decorators who will choose books for you – you don't have to read them, look at them or even put them on the shelf."The idea - one that always worries me - of books as status symbols, of texts that one hasn't read but has chosen to say something about the reader's personality, is horrific. And yet that is where we are heading. Because books are seen as "important" in the worst possible way, it says enough to own a book rather than to have read it. To be seen with it rather than to know it.
When people come into my house, they often ask, "have you really read all these books?"
I reply, "yes, more or less," and if I haven't, then I'm going to. Because its not having the books that's important, but its the reading them, the interacting with them, the joining in of the private conversation between text and reader that really matters to me. I have books because I love to read. And its not some fancy intellectual thing either; I love books in the same way I love movies, and even some computer games. Its about the narrative, the reaction and interaction between the entertainment itself and the person being entertained.
I sometimes think we have forgotten what books are and how to use them, how to interact with them. They are not indicators of intelligence, neccesarily. They are a means of communication. They can be entertainment.
Overhearing a parent talking to their child the other day, they said, "books are what make you smart."
No, I thought. Books are something fun. Books are a way into another world. Don't tell the child "books will make you smart" because that's not a compelling argument and its what's got us into this situation in the first place, where books can be a status symbol or mere decoration designed to make us think something about the owner that is not neccesarily true.
I love books and I buy books because they remain the ideal method of telling a certain type of story. And the idea of them being mere decoration is a mockery of the very reasons they were written in the first place.