I am an electronic junkie.
That confession is hardly headline material. It ranks right up there as another dog-bites-man story. You already know I sing the body electric.
When I moved down here just over a decade ago, The aspect of my northern life I thought I would miss most was ready access to books -- and bookstores. I am a voracious reader. But there was little in the local area to sate my passion.
Amazon soon came to my rescue by increasing the coverage area of its Kindle readers and concurrently lowering their price. I could now buy books wherever there was a wifi signal -- and, in a couple years more, wherever there was cell coverage. The world's libraries were at my fingertips.
I thought it would take me some time to transition from the feel of a book in my hands to the convenience of toting around my library in an electronic device far lighter than my cell phone. But, it didn't. Within days I became a missionary for Kindle with the zeal of any recent convert.
A couple years ago, I drove up to Oregon to retrieve several boxes of books from my mother's garage. They constituted the rump of the library I had donated to Goodwill. Most of the volumes were biographies. Originally, I had left them with my mother because she as fond as I am of learning more about the human condition through the lives of others. She particularly enjoys biographies about her ancestors.
Now that I owned a house, the library was lacking one item. Books. So, off I drove with the books to Mexico to form the core of a new library. I must confess that Jennifer Rose, who sees Kindles as akin to signing up to be a member of the Knights Templar, was a prime spur of my decision to be surrounded by hard-bound volumes that I have read.
I now periodically choose new books from reviews in the periodicals I read. A few seconds on the Amazon app on my telephone, and the books are on their way to a new home in my library.
That is how I received Benjamin Dreyer's Dreyer's English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style. A review in The Economist piqued my interest. The book has lived up to its billing.
As a writer, I am always looking for ways to improve my product. Dreyer, a copy chief at Random House, has put together a style book that reminds writers of best practices (Dreyer hates the term "rules of writing") -- all told with the type of wit we wish in our dinner guests.
He starts with a simple challenge. Go a week without writing:
- in fact
- just (the one meaning "merely")
- so ("extremely")
- of course
- that said
You get the idea. But, it was not the contents that spurred today's essay.
I have mentioned before that summer has arrived on the tropical Mexican coast. Here, in the untitled house, that means the pool hammock is broken out of the bodega. I pour myself a glass of mineral water spiked with the juice of three limes, choose a book, and mount my water steed for the afternoon.
That "choose a book" step until recently meant "grab my Kindle." But I have been reading hardbound books in the pool lately.
For some reason, I had forgotten that reading real books while floating is a refined art whose mastery I must have forgotten. While holding my book with my left hand, I let my right arm cool in the water. That was well and good until I had to turn the page.
Getting a bit of water on the face of my Kindle is not a problem. It just rolls right off. When I turned the page of the book with my wet right hand, I was quickly reminded of the absorbency of paper.
I dabbed off what I could. As high as our temperatures are, I hoped the rest of the water would quickly evaporate. I had not calculated the humidity into the calculation.
When I was in the Air Force several of my colleagues talked about their past assignments in The Azores. They said their most prominent memory of the place was its humidity. When their quarters were painted, it seemed as if the paint remained damp until it was time to paint again.
I did not have a humidity problem that large today. The pages dried out quickly enough to allow me to start reading again without the danger of tearing the damp pages. Of course, a bit of water on the screen is quite acceptable with a Kindle.
On the other hand, if I dropped my Kindle in the pool (a probability that nears almost certainty taking into account my record with things electronic), I would need to by a new reader. If I dropped a hard-bound book in the same part of the pool, it would be warped after it dried -- but salvageable.
There are undoubtedly some of you who are whetting your comment knives at this very moment to suggest that I keep reading material out of the pool. But you know that is not going to happen.
Reading material banned from pools would endanger the economic hold of the military-industrial-publishing-floaties complex. And we cannot have that. What next? Banning Neil Diamond songs. (Wait. I would be in favor of that.)
Instead, I will keep flowing along like Old Man Liverspots. Reading. And slugging back those mineral waters.